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Fallen vets remembered even with fewer members at veteran posts

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Posted at 1:49 AM, Sep 12, 2023

The 9-11 attacks inspired many to serve the country, including one eastern Montana man, who ended up paying the ultimate sacrifice.

The American Legion post in Colstrip was named in honor of Trevor Johnson and closed a few years ago.

Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and American Legion posts all across the country are suffering a similar fate, without the vets needed to keep them running.

VFW and American Legion posts have been closing and merging with others around Montana, including in Colstrip.

While that post closed, citizens around there have other ways of remembering him.

Johnson was in high school on Sept. 11, 2001.

"When that second plane hit that tower, there was just something I could read into his face," said Russ Davidson, a retired Colstrip High School history teacher. "He was not the kind of kid that showed a lot of emotion. But there was a smoldering rage that I just could see in his eyes. And I knew right then and there he was going to be military."

Davidson says 22 years ago, Johnson was a junior in his history class at Colstrip High School.

"It was the Pearl Harbor of our generation," Davidson said. "The reason it sticks out with Trevor is he's the only one that reacted the way. I saw that in his face."

Johnson, a sergeant in the U.S. Marine Corps, was killed in an accident in 2009 in Afghanistan.

"Before (the Legion post) closed, you still remember, still have memories of him, of his family and whatever he did," said Randy Stiles, VFW Montana district 3 commander.

According to the US military, the VFW had a record 2.1 million members in 1992.

By last year in 2022, that number had dropped to just over 1 million.

Much of the aging membership includes the World War II and Vietnam vets.

And this generation of retired service members who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan haven't become members.

"The younger people are carrying on with their own their own lives," said Stiles. "You know, they're glad to be alive. They're glad to be home and now they're gonna essentially concentrate on their family."

While the Legion post with Johnson's name has been dropped, they still remember him in Colstrip and Rosebud County at several places, including the alumni Colstrip Rangers game.

"We shout his name at the end of the game and we're playing for in memory of Trevor," said Andrew Torgerson, who looked up to Johnson as a player. "It's one of the bigger sporting events in the community."