Decorated sailor killed in California crash

2013-05-07T00:00:00Z 2013-05-07T22:40:04Z Decorated sailor killed in California crashDeborah Laverty debora.laverty@nwi.com, (219) 762-1397, ext. 2223 nwitimes.com

HOBART | U.S. Navy Senior Chief Petty Officer Timothy Johns came close to death in 2007 after a bomb exploded in Iraq, family members said.

Johns, 42, who received a Purple Heart for wounds from the blast, continued to serve his country following the incident. He was killed in a vehicle accident April 27 near his California home.

John Ismay, a former Navy explosive ordnance disposal technician who served with Johns, said his friend's life shouldn't have ended that way.

"I just thought it was a complete injustice the way he died," Ismay said. "If he had died in combat it made perfect sense but not in an accident. It just felt wrong, definitely wrong."

Family and friends paid tribute to Johns during a funeral service Monday held at Kraft Funeral Home. His remains will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery.

"He was our hero, our rock," his mother, Wanda Melion, said.

When Johns, a 1989 Hobart High School graduate, told her he was joining the U.S. Navy right after school, Melion wasn't surprised.

Her son was always a thrill-seeker who wanted adventure in his life -- even as a young boy.

"When he was only 5 or 6, he took boards and bricks and built a ramp for his Big Wheel to ride over. The ramps only got bigger when he graduated to a two-wheeler," Melion said.

Johns served 11 tours of duty, including the one to Iraq in 2007 when he stepped on a concealed pressure plate while entering a home, leading to severe injuries.

In addition to a Purple Heart, he also earned a Bronze Star for Valor and a Defense Meritorious Service medal.

"He loved what he was doing. Not that I didn't worry, but he loved the adventure, just the thrill. That's the way he lived his life," Melion said.

Brian Johns paid tribute to his brother by bringing to the funeral home a flask of Whistle Pig rye whiskey which he shared with family members.

"Every time he would come back home, he would bring a bottle of whiskey and this is appropriate because this is the best," Brian Johns said.

He said his brother was stationed at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake in south central California, and was living in nearby Ridgecrest, Calif. when he was killed in an accident.

"He had built a custom Jeep to do rock climbing and had just put in a five-point harness. Either he didn't have it on or the seat belt failed because he was ejected when his Jeep went off the ramp," Johns said.

Creighton Wilfong said even after surviving a bomb explosion in 2007 in Iraq, his brother-in-law told family members he wasn't ready to quit.

"He said his job wasn't done yet ... He was amazing; absolutely amazing. He's a real hero," Wilfong said.

Hobart City Councilman P. Lino Maggio said he attended high school and graduated with Johns.

"He was just a great guy. He didn't have an enemy in the world," Maggio said.

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