McDonald, Weathersfield honor veteran

Street to be named after Vietnam War casualty

McDonald and Weathersfield officials plan to honor the life and service of a local veteran by naming a street in his memory.

Weathersfield Trustee Steve Gerberry said plans are to name a portion of McDonald Avenue from Ohltown McDonald Road at West Second Street south to Watson Marshall Road as the “Dennis Johnston Memorial Boulevard.” The area of McDonald Avenue is near McDonald High School.

“Because the road travels through both the village of McDonald and Weathersfield, officials from both communities want to honor Dennis Johnston by naming a section of the road in his memory,” Gerberry said.

Seaman Dennis Neil Johnston, a 1966 graduate of McDonald High School, enlisted in the Navy, serving with the 3rd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, HS Company with a specialty as a hospitalman.

Gerberry said Johnston gave his life while in active service to the United States in the Vietnam War. He said Johnston was killed in action on April 16, 1968, while engaging hostile forces during the battle of Khe Sanh on the south slope of Hill 689 in Quang Tri Province, South Vietnam.

“He was just 20 years old and was the only graduate of McDonald High School to fall in Vietnam,” Gerberry said.

Gerberry said Johnston also is honored at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, D.C.

For his bravery, Johnston was awarded the Purple Heart, the Combat Action Ribbon, the National Defense Service Medal, the Vietnam Campaign Medal, the Vietnam Service Medal, the Navy Presidential Unit Citation, the Vietnam Gallantry Cross, the Navy Good Conduct Medal and the Navy Expeditionary Medal.

Gerberry said the township will install a donated sign along the road reflecting the memorial designation.

McDonald Mayor Glenn Puckett said village council, like Weathersfield trustees, also has approved a motion to honor Johnston. Puckett said plans are being discussed to have the official dedication of the sign on Memorial Day or sometime that weekend.

Puckett said he has spoken to Weathersfield administrator David Rouan about plans for the event.

He said the area is behind the high school with one side of McDonald Avenue in Weathersfield and the other side in McDonald.

Rouan said Johnston lived in the township on Watson Marshall Road, but attended McDonald school district.

“We were approached by veterans who felt that Dennis Johnston should be recognized in some way for his service and sacrifice,” Rouan said.

Raymond Bishop, a retired command sergeant major with the Army, sent a letter to trustees asking them to consider dedicating the section of McDonald Avenue to honor Johnston. He said Johnston was among the 40 Marines and Navy corpsmen killed April 16, 1968.

“I am not requesting to have the road name changed but to have your approval, along with the village council of McDonald, to have the roadway designated Dennis Neil Johnston Memorial Boulevard,” Bishop wrote.

Bishop said the request will not cost the township. The signs will be paid for by a fund that has been established to honor those who have died in service to the country and are recipients of the Purple Heart.

Rouan said talks have been held to have a sign with Johnston’s name and the name of the street at both entrances to that section of McDonald Avenue so motorists can see the sign from both directions.

“It will be large signs that can be seen by anyone traveling by. This will let us show our appreciation for the sacrifice he made,” Rouan said.

Dennis Neil Johnston

Born: Dec. 27, 1947, and lived in McDonald

Died: April 16, 1968, in South Vietnam Quang Tri province

Buried: Niles Union Cemetery

War: Vietnam War

Rank: Enlisted E-3

Specialty: Hospitalman

Branch: Navy

Group: 3rd Marine Division, 1st Battalion, 9th Marines, HS Company


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