ROCHESTER, N.H. — When the concentration camps were being broken up during World War II, U.S. Navy Chief Petty Officer Frank E. Johnson was carrying a man who was being rescued from Auschwitz.
Johnson was 5-feet 3-inches in height, and while the man he was carrying was about 6 feet tall, Johnson felt like he had an 8-year-old child in his arms. The man being rescued was just skin and bones. While Johnson carried him to the Navy ship to get medical help, all the man could say in his weakened state was, "Thank you, thank you."
Such was the story Johnson told his daughter, Doris Walker, after returning from war. It was among myriad stories Walker had heard from her father, who served both in World War I and World War II.
Johnson joined the Navy in August 1919 in Portsmouth, and was honorably discharged in September 1946. According to Walker, her father joined the military to serve the county as early as he could, at the age of 18. He could have tried to fake his age and join at the age of 17, like some did at the time, but he just couldn't lie to his country, said Walker.
Johnson never got his war medals before dying of brain cancer in 1969, but on Wednesday, Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter honored Johnson by presenting the medals to Walker.
Through his daughter, Johnson received the World War I Victory Medal, Combat Action Ribbon, World War II Victory Medal, American Defense Service Medal, Navy Good Conduct Medal, American Campaign Medal, Asiatic Pacific Campaign Medal, Honorable Service Lapel Pin, and a Discharge Button to show his honorable discharge status.
On Wednesday in Rochester, Shea-Porter commented on the humble nature of many World War II veterans.
"They saved the world from tyranny, and then they quietly went home and went about their lives," she said.
Walker, 62, of Rochester, said she doesn't know why her father was not honored officially with the medals while he was alive, but she is happy to have the medals in her family now.
For Walker, it took 10 years to get her father's medals.
"Every time I wrote (to the U.S. Navy) I never got a response back, so I figured the best person to go to is my congresswoman," she said.
For Shea-Porter, it was her first time ever presenting a World War I medal. She said all the medals presented to Johnson on Wednesday are symbols of gratitude and recognition.
"The country is very grateful," said Shea-Porter. "We will never forget the tremendous sacrifice."