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Brazil woman's son awarded Bronze Star

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

Maj. Hal Johnston has been awarded the prestigious Bronze Star medal for his service in Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, the Global War against Terrorism.

Johnston, 48, of Terre Haute, is the son of Joyce Oehler of Brazil and the late Judge H. Ralph Johnston, who presided over Vigo Circuit Court from 1963-1969.

Maj. Johnston has been in Afghanistan for the last year. He is with the 76th Infantry Brigade (Separate), which forms the core element of Coalition Joint Task Force Phoenix. The mission of Task Force Phoenix is to train and operate with the new Afghan National Army.

While in Afghanistan, Johnston has volunteered for numerous missions along the rugged and dangerous Afghanistan-Pakistan border. The area has numerous warlords, private militias, and Taliban insurgents. Johnston worked with U.S. and Afghan military forces to help restore order and civil society to the region. In recognition of his service, his Bronze Star citation reads in part, "He also helped by bringing the warring factions in Zabul Province together and greatly facilitated their reaching a mutually agreeable cease-fire, thereby ensuring the peace and safety of local civilians. His performance of duty in a combat zone reflects credit upon himself, the Office of Military Cooperation-Afghanistan, the United States Central Command, and the United States Army."

Johnston was awarded the Bronze Star by U. S. Army Lt. Gen. Karl W. Eikenberry, who heads Combined Forces Command-Afghanistan.

The Bronze Star, one of the Army's most coveted awards, was created in 1944. It recognizes soldiers who have displayed exceptionally meritorious service or valor during wartime.

Johnston is a 20-year veteran of the armed forces. He was commissioned a naval officer in 1985, and served with the Pacific fleet until 1989. In 1998, he transferred to the Indiana Army National Guard, and has served since that time with the 76th Infantry Brigade (Separate), the "Nighthawks."

His previous decorations include U. S. Army Airborne wings, the Meritorious Service Medal, the Army Commendation Medal, the Global War on Terror Medal, and the Armed Forces Expeditionary Me-dal.

He is a 1975 graduate of Terre Haute South Vigo High School, and later received his undergraduate and law degrees from Indiana University. He has worked in the Marion County Prosecutor's Office, and was a Vigo County deputy prosecutor from 1990-1996. Since 1997 he has been the Chief Deputy Prosecutor in Knox County until his recall to active duty in April 2004.

Johnston lives in Terre Haute with his wife Geri and sons Stephen, 16 and Wyatt, 7.

Major Johnston will be returning from Afghanistan on Saturtday, 9:45pm at Stout Field in Indianapolis.

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