WWI Hero's Family 'Shocked' They Aren't Really Family

But Medal of Honor recipient still a hero—and family—in their eyes
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 3, 2015 8:49 AM CDT
WWI Hero's Family 'Shocked' They Aren't Really Family
In this photo from yesterday, Tara Johnson, poses in the East Room of the White House in Washington before the Medal of Honor ceremony for the late Army Pvt. Henry Johnson.   (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

President Obama honored Pvt. Henry Johnson posthumously yesterday with the Medal of Honor for his bravery in World War I, recognizing how Johnson fended off at least a dozen enemy troops while protecting a seriously wounded comrade—actions that made Johnson's family proud for nearly a century. So it was a bombshell for Tara Johnson when an Army general showed up last month to let her know that Henry, the man she had thought was her grandfather all these years, wasn't her grandfather after all—because Henry wasn't the father of her dad, Herman, a WWII soldier who fought with the Tuskegee Airmen. "Dad's birth certificate didn't have Henry on it," she tells the AP. "All we have ever known is Henry Lincoln Johnson. My family is going through an identity crisis." The Army, meanwhile, issued a statement that said, per the Washington Post, "The Army believes this to be a case of historical inaccuracy, not fraudulent representation."

Tara Johnson has long been an advocate, along with veterans in the Albany, NY, area, to gain recognition for Henry Johnson's wartime valor with the all-black Harlem Hellfighters unit. Though the Johnson family still isn't completely sure why Herman Johnson's mother presented Henry as Herman's dad, one Albany County historian believes she may have decided Henry was a suitable role model. Regardless, "he's always going to be my grandfather," Tara tells the AP. Because of her work in Henry's name, Tara was invited to yesterday's ceremony, along with her cousin, a Vietnam vet also named Herman Johnson. The Medal of Honor, however, was presented to New York National Guard Command Sgt. Maj. Louis Wilson in the absence of blood relatives. (Troops whose valor got lost in Vietnam's "fog of war" received the Medal of Honor posthumously last year.)

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