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By CINDY SIMPSON
He was a treasured husband and father whose service in the Spanish-American War was revered and cherished by his family.
Now, Parnick Hayes Johnson has received recognition from others for his war service more than a century ago.
The Harriman patriarch’s memory was given the full honorary treatment on Friday, as family, friends, veterans with the Roane County Military Memorial Honor Guard and a U.S. Congressman were present to dedicate a plaque at his headstone that spoke of his duty.
The former serviceman was a U.S. Army private in Company I, 19 U.S. Infantry who served at the turn of the 20th century, according to his son, Cecil Johnson.
Johnson was only 4 months old when his father died in an accident at a railroad crossing in 1929. Though his memories of his father are only those shared by older siblings, Johnson said he believed it was his duty to secure a plaque at his father’s grave as a reminder of his service in the Philippines during the war, which is sometimes referred to as The War of 1898 by historians.
“I’ve been putting a flag on his grave every year,” Johnson said. “I wanted something down, so a flag would be on his grave every year.”
Johnson said he began the practice because there was no way for veterans’ organizations to know to put a flag at the grave during important holidays.
Johnson’s wife, Joyce, said getting the marker has been on her husband’s mind for a long part of their almost 55-year marriage.
“All of these years I’ve heard about this and how much he wanted this,” she said.
Some stumbling blocks have stood in the way of getting the veteran recognized.
One of those deterrents was physical proof of service. A fire which destroyed the family home before Johnson was born burned up Parnick Johnson’s service papers.
The information age, however, brought forth that evidence. Johnson’s nephew, J.D. Tedder, went online and secured details from Washington regarding his grandfather’s military records.
Johnson said officials first told him they were not eligible for a plaque because a small marker rests at the head of his father’s grave. The marker, a nondescript cement marker that lies flush with the ground, includes Parnick Johnson’s name with his dates of birth and death. No military information is given.
Johnson said he approached U.S. Rep. Lincoln Davis’ office about getting the plaque. He received word that it was approved about a week later.
Davis was part of the brief ceremony, which included a 21-gun salute, prayers and presenting the flag to Johnson and his family.
“It is an honor for me to be here with the veterans and this family to again recognize this veteran,” Davis said.
Both Cecil Johnson and his deceased brother, Willis Johnson, followed in their father’s footsteps.
Cecil served in the Korean War while Willis Johnson fought in World War II.
“I just wish my mother, brother and sisters were here to see this,” said Johnson, who was joined by his only surviving sister, Alberta Tedder, at the service.