Born May 24, 1985 to J.B. 'Nubbin' and Angela Johnston, Gary S. Johnston called Windthorst, Texas home. He was named after an uncle, J.B.'s brother, SSgt Gary C. Johnston, who was KIA during the Vietnam War. Gary grew up on a dairy farm with his sisters, outside of Windthorst, a town of 500 people.
As a young boy, Gary spent his time shooting trap, playing a variety of sports ranging from baseball, basketball and football to track. He began playing sports at an early age on a PeeWee/Midgets team.
Gary was such an accomplished trap shooter, that he won multiple championships in 4-H Shooting Sports and the Amateur Trap Shooting Association.
He carried that dedication to succeed with him as he grew into a young man, continuing to participate in various sports while attending Windthorst High School. Perhaps it was that Gary always strived to be the best he could no matter what he was doing.
Dee Coppage, one of his teachers remembers "There was something very true blue about him, almost gallant. He was very steady. You could count on him. He was very responsible and he was willing, always willing to do anything you needed."
In his senior year on the football team, Gary played both linebacker and fullback, making the all-district team. Never missing practice, Gary even continued to show up and play after having broken his arm. Shawn Talley said "that you couldn't change him. Even if he was hurting on the inside, he was still smiling on the outside."
Coach Green compared Gary to other players, remarking that "he was known for his tenacity and hitting ability." Gary was "not only a standout player, but a standout individual." He came from a "hard working, super family." Gary was named to the Times Record News Red River 22 team on the defensive line, making 91 tackles for the Trojans that year.
Classmate Chance Schroeder says "Gary was always there to help. If you needed a ride home, he'd come help."
Gary was the kind of guy who like everyone and everyone like Gary! He was remembered for his smile, he was one you could count on. A true gentleman. Gary was a standout kind of person whether it was playing sports, in the classroom or at a social event.
Sabrina, Gary's sister talked about Gary at his funeral and how he lived life to the fullest. She remembers Gary as her protector. "Whenever I would fall he would pick me up, wipe my face and tell me 'It's OK,'" she said. "He was my best friend. He was my hero. I will miss him every day."
He was a member of St. Mary's Catholic Church where he was an usher and altar server.
Gary graduated from Windthorst High School in 2003 and went on to attend Midwestern State University.
"I knew what could happen, and it did," J.B. said. "Didn't want to lose him. Didn't want the family to have to go through again what we went through in 1970." Nubbin Johnson said to a reporter, "My brother died in vain in Vietnam. That won't happen to my son."
Gary left college before he graduated, enlisting in the Marine Corps in May of 2004. He earned the right to be called "Marine" and was assigned to the 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion, 3rd Marine Division, III Marine Expeditionary out of Okinawa, Japan. He served for two-and-half years with the Marines, attaining the rank of Sergeant. One highlight of his service included being assigned to the protection of then President George W. Bush in Mongolia.
Those who saw Gary after he entered the Marine Corps knew he was proud of being a Marine! Coppage remembers his pride. "He was just so proud, and part of that pride, I think, was that he was serving the country," she said.
He was best friends with Bryan Ernst and William (TJ) Edwards, while serving with the 3rd Recon Bn/A Co from 2003-2006 and 2003 -2007 in the III MEF/3rd Marine Division.
A portrait hangs in the Johnston home that was painted from a picture snapped while Gary was over in Iraq. "He just pulled a good one on somebody," J.B. said upon seeing the expression Gary's face.
Memories from Gary's fellow Marines tell us more about Gary:
"I TRAINED WITH HIM IN OKINAWA AND 3RD RECON RELEIVED US IN IRAQ IN OCT 06. GARY WAS A GREAT MARINE AND A FINE MAN. YOU SHOULD BE PROUD. REST IN PEACE SNAKE-EATER. GY B. 2D RECON BN." ~ TONY BALCHUN
"We wanted you to know that we continue to honor and remember Gary. Our son, Chris served with Gary in 3rd Recon in Iraq and is there with them again . Gary's sacrifice for his country will never be forgotten." ~ Major & Mrs. David Gilmer, USMC RET
"Gary you where a great Marine and a fine man. You always brought a smile to peoples faces. Gary you are a true hero. Rest in peace brother." LCpl Jacob Melrose 3rd Recon Bn, H&S Co
“On my last tour to Iraq, my battalion lost a total of six Marines and four were critically injured. Those numbers included our attachments, and we were honored to serve with them," said Sgt. Edwards. [Sgt. Gary S. Johnston was one of those six Marines.]
I still think about those six men each day; and I am sure that every Marine and Navy Corpsman who deployed with us continues to do the same. In their memory, six dog tags hang under the rear view mirror in my truck; they are my daily reminders that "Freedom isn't free." observed Sgt. Edwards.
From Sgt Brett LaneDeaugustinis, Gary's Team Leader: As a man and a marine he was one of the most sound individuals I have ever known. He was my point man and my rto, and he was phenomenal at both. He pulled double duties that way for me the whole time. He was also my vehicle gunner, so he was pretty much my right hand man and my go to guy.
On a more personal note, he was the kind of guy that makes people around him better and want to get better, because you never wanted to let Gary down. He was so good at everything he did, so when your around him you had to step up your game. He never complained, the only time I would hear him have something negative to say, was when it was cold out. His texas ass hated the cold, but it never affected his work.
Last, he was always smiling. Good dude, and I miss him everyday. brett
When formed up, the funeral cortege for Gary was eleven miles long, passing through streets lined with flying American flags. Windthorst, a town of 500, had such a strong turnout for Gary's service, that there was no room graveside for all the mourners. Marines then set up a video screen in the local municipal gym, which was packed to overflowing with citizens. Even that was not enough. Some people still had to stand outside. The Patriot Guard Riders were there to shield and protect the family and friends of Sgt. Gary S. Johnston.
Thank you for your service!
Loved, remembered and never forgotten, may you always rest in peace Sgt Gary S. Johnson.