By Tech. Sgt. Nestor Cruz
944 Fighter Wing Public Affairs
LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. (AFNS) — Bronze statues can be seen almost anywhere but one rarely hears the amazing stories behind their creation.
The spouse of a Reserve Airman here at Luke Air Force Base, Arizona, recently sculpted a bust of Senior Airman Daniel Johnson, 30th Civil Engineer Squadron explosive ordnance disposal technician, Vandenberg Air Force Base, California. Johnson was killed in action Oct. 5, 2010, while serving during Operation Enduring Freedom.
“My husband has a contact with the EOD Warrior Foundation, so through the contact we came up with the idea to give back in some way because the military family and the EOD family had done so much for our family,” said Stephanie Hunter, spouse of Senior Master Sgt. Stephen Hunter, 944th Civil Engineer Squadron EOD program manager. “Lauren (the point of contact) was very helpful. She got behind the idea and sent out emails looking for Gold Star families we can honor.”
Gold Star families are those with family members in the U.S. Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice in service of their country.
The response was massive. Stephanie and her husband received a flood of emails from families hoping to memorialize their fallen heroes. One email in particular connected with Stephanie in a special way.
“We chose to honor Senior Airman Johnson because his duty background mirrored my husband’s, plus Johnson is from Minnesota, my home state, so I felt a bit of a hometown connection with him.”
Johnson was assigned to the 30th CES at Vandenberg AFB. He deployed in 2009 in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Johnson deployed again in 2010, this time to Kandahar, Afghanistan. There, he was credited with single-handedly saving an Afghanistan National Army soldier injured by an improvised explosive device.
“I just wanted to make the Johnson family proud of this memorial for their son and realize that he’s not forgotten,” Stephanie said. “The Johnson family has been very supportive of this project.”
Hunter said he’s very proud of his wife’s contribution to his military family.
“I’m in awe of Stephanie’s unique way of supporting the EOD community and our fallen comrade,” he said.
Even though sculpting the bust was a labor of love, Stephanie was dissatisfied with her work.
“I’m an artist and extremely critical of my own work,” she said. “Sometimes all I can see is what’s wrong with the project. But Jim Johnson (Senior Airman Johnson’s father), gave me approval to move forward. I felt great.”
The sculpted bust is now at a foundry where a mold will be made before being cast in bronze.
“The sculpture is going to change a couple times before the final product, so it’ll be a different feeling when I finally see it in bronze,” Stephanie said. “It’ll be permanent.”
The Johnson family intends to place the finished bust at a climbing center in Mukwonago, Wisconsin.
Stephanie hopes her work will encourage others to give back to the Air Force family.
“I just want to inspire others to do the same thing for their military family and do something outside of themselves,” she said. “I’m extremely honored and humbled to be part of this project and I’m thankful to the EOD Warrior Foundation for helping to support this project.”
To support the EOD Warrior Foundation, visit http://www.eodwarriorfoundation.org/.