ENFIELD—Lance Cpl. Philip A. Johnson of Enfield, a member of the Young Marines from the age of 11, was killed Sept. 3, 2006, by a roadside bomb near Ramadi, Iraq. He was 19 years old.
A 19-year-old Marine from Enfield was killed Sunday morning in Iraq when a roadside bomb detonated as his unit traveled from Ramadi to Habina, a family friend said Monday.
Word of the young Marine's death spread quickly in Enfield, where Johnson, a 2005 Enfield High School graduate, was remembered Monday as a "focused and thoughtful" young man whose dream since childhood was to become a Marine.
"He was hell-bent on being a Marine," said Ron Jackman of Longmeadow, Mass., a family friend who was serving as the Johnson family spokesman. "When he found out he was going to Iraq, he was hell-bent on going. He had no fear whatsoever."
The Marines declined to comment about Johnson until the Department of Defense formally announces his death. There have been 33 servicemen and civilians with Connecticut ties who have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since 2002.
Johnson is the second serviceman from Enfield to die in Iraq. Marine Staff Sgt. Phillip A. Jordan, 42, of Enfield, was killed in battle March 23, 2003, in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Jordan was promoted to gunnery sergeant posthumously.
Johnson served with weapons company, 3rd Battalion, 2nd Marines, from Camp Lejeune, N.C. He arrived in Iraq in mid-July.
And while Johnson's family was supportive of his deep desire to be a Marine, they also had some reservations about his service in Iraq.
His mother was afraid of getting "that knock on the door," Jackman said. "That's what they got - the knock on the door."
The Rev. Michael J. Coons, pastor of Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer in Enfield, said he spent time with Johnson's family Sunday night. Many church members learned of Johnson's death during a prayer circle on Monday.
"Their faith in the Lord Jesus is strong," Coons said of Johnson's family. "They know he's in heaven with Jesus and they know they will see him again. The pain of separation, the pain and the grief of loss is very real."
Coons said he found Johnson to be an impressive young man who was active in church and committed to his faith.
"I had the privilege of baptizing him and confirming him in the Christian faith," Coons recalled. "Sometimes teenagers complain about going to confirmation class."
Johnson, however, never did. "We always enjoyed talking about our Lord and savior," Coons said.
Johnson's other passion was the Marines, and he prepared himself for his service by joining a Young Marines detachment at Westover Air Reserve Base in Massachusetts when he was 11.
The Young Marines, founded in 1958 in Waterbury, is a youth education and service program for boys and girls ages 8 through completion of high school that promotes the mental, moral and physical development of its members.
"This is pretty sad," said Edward C. Mitrook, commanding officer of the Westover Young Marines detachment and a retired Marine Corps sergeant major. "He did touch a lot of people. He probably thought he didn't, but he did."
Johnson attained the rank of staff sergeant in the Young Marines and was a role model to younger members, Mitrook said. Johnson is the first alumnus of the Westover detachment to be lost in combat, he added.