HICKORY - A Hickory military hero may enter the 2008 race for Congress.Sorry for the large blockquote but I seriously don't know what to edit out of what national columnist George Will wrote about Johnson in October 1999:
Daniel Johnson, 31, confirmed Wednesday he is considering a run for the seat held by U.S. Rep. Patrick McHenry.
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Johnson received the Navy Marine Corps Medal, the highest honor awarded to an officer during peacetime, following a 1999 accident on the USS Blue Ridge during which Johnson saved a fellow crewmate.
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A graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Johnson returned there to attend law school a year later.
Johnson said a run for Congress, like his Navy and legal careers, would be another avenue of service.
“So far, my entire professional career, I’ve been in one type of service or another,” Johnson said. “(A congressional run) would be another way to serve a lot of people in a wide range of issues. It’s very appealing and something worth considering.”
In his eighth month on board, on Aug. 23, he was the safety observer at the aft mooring station as Korean tugs pulled the Blue Ridge into position to leave the harbor at Pusan. A tug was reeling in the messenger line, a rope about an inch and a half in diameter that is attached to the hawser, the big rope -- about eight inches in diameter -- that bears the weight in tugging and mooring. The tug was moving away and reeling unusually fast. Too fast.What lies are you going to tell about this fine man, Pat? What lies are you going to perpetrate this time? Because that's the only way you're going to win. It's the only way you beat Huffman in 04 and it's the only way you could possibly win against this guy.
What happened next happened very fast. The leg of Seaman Steven Wright, 21, from Pine Bluff, Ark., became tangled in a loop of the messenger line which, under extreme tension from the tug, dragged Wright across the deck and pulled his leg into a "chock,'' an oval opening about a foot long and eight inches wide through which ropes pass. The tremendous torque from the tug could have pulled Wright through the chock, ripping him apart.
"This part is a little bit fuzzy to me,'' says Johnson about what he did. "I tried to free him up.'' The official "summary of action'' recommending the Navy and Marine Corps Medal says:
"Immediately, without hesitation, and in the face of known risk to his own life, Ensign Johnson ran to the assistance of the entrapped line handler who was in imminent peril of losing the lower part of his leg. ... None of the other seven personnel on scene attempted any similar act or endangered themselves to such a degree to come to the entangled Sailor's aid.''
Wright's life was saved because his leg was not. He was freed when the rope severed his leg (and four fingers above the knuckles). But before that happened, as Johnson struggled to help Wright, the violently jerking line entangled both of Johnson's legs, dragged him to the chock, and severed both limbs below the knee. He also lost a finger.
Why did he act as he did? He says, matter-of-factly, that officers are trained to be responsible for the well-being of their men, and besides, that's the way his parents -- they are at his bedside this day, having made the seven-hour drive from Hickory for another stay with their son -- raised him. He would rather talk about the prostheses that will soon be fitted to the stumps of his legs.
"They say that if I want to I can run a marathon. The only thing that will limit me is myself.'' He is thinking of going to medical school.