Iowa Veteran Passing on Survival Knowledge to Boy Scouts

by Clayton Edwards

When one Iowa Vietnam veteran didn’t stop serving after his time in the military ended. Today, Retired US Army Mess Sergeant Roger Johnson helps his fellow veterans navigate the Veterans Affairs system. Additionally, Johnson prepares the next generation of boys to be self-sufficient young men in his position as a scoutmaster for the local Boy Scouts.

In an interview with KCAU, an Iowa-based news outlet, Roger Johnson discussed his time in the military and his current service with the VA as well as the Boy Scouts. First, though Johnson looked back to his childhood, where he learned the skills that would carry him through his military career.

As a Mess Sergeant, Roger Johnson prepared meals for thousands of soldiers every day. He learned the skills needed for that job early in his life. “I grew up in a family of five boys and you learned how to cook,” Johnson said. He and his brothers learned to bake bread, cookies, and “basically everything” else. Overall, his parents taught them, “The basic skills, how to take care of yourself,” he told the news outlet. Now, he’s passing that knowledge and more on to the local Boy Scouts.

Johnson’s Cooking Skills Saved His Life, Enriched the Lives of Boy Scouts

It doesn’t matter where you are in a war zone, you’re never truly safe. However, working in the mess hall saved this veteran’s life. In the video below, you can see Johnson’s table full of military mementos. Among those tangible memories is a piece of shrapnel. The Viet Cong attacked an ammo dump in Johnson’s camp. The explosion resulted in a rain of fire and hot jagged metal.

The piece of shrapnel that the Mess Sergeant kept ripped through his bed and stuck in the floor below. If he hadn’t been in the kitchen, that piece of metal would have ripped through Johnson as well. So, you could say that his cooking skills saved his life and enriched the lives of local Boy Scouts on several levels.

Johnson has served as a scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts for forty years now. Each young man who comes through his troop means the world to him. As a result, he teaches them all he can about survival and self-sufficiency.

Johnson said that his favorite part of his work with the Boy Scouts is pinning the eagle badge on his scouts. “I cannot do it without crying,” he said. If you watch the above video, you can hear the emotion in his voice when he talks about it. He added, “I’m soft-hearted when it comes to that.”

Roger Johnson is an example of a real American hero. He served in Vietnam. Then, he came home and began teaching boys to be men. At the same time, he has served as the chairman of his local Veterans Affairs Commission for nearly 25 years, helping his fellow veterans get what they need to survive. Johnson shows no sign of stopping. In fact, he can’t wait to get back out in the wilderness with his Boy Scouts in the coming year.