I'm going to try to not make this a depressing post, I promise. But I really feel I need to post this. So bear with me, please. This is gonna be the longest, but maybe one of the most important things I blog about.....
Meet my friend Johnny Ray Strong.
I met him Freshman year in high school. We were both in the Academy of Information Technology program & had pretty much every class together. We didnt really talk or become friends until 2nd semester. We were both waiting after school for our parents to pick us up & were 2 of the last ones there. Our friend Mark was there too. We were talking about AOL Instant Messenger (big thing at the time!) and Johnny gave me his SN to chat. He wrote it on my hand-JGOLDAUS. I remember because I asked him what it stood for & he said J is for Johnny. Gold is his favorite color & AUS is short for Austin-his favorite boxer. Random! lol But that's really where our friendship started. I used to talk to Johnny & Mark & most my other friends for HOURS on AIM every night. Johnny & I became very close friends. We used to talk on the phone all the time-from when school let out in the afternoon until bedtime! Seriously, typical high schoolers right? Our favorite thing to do was watch a movie or TV show at the same time while talking on the phone. We used to put in movies at the same time & press the play button at the same time & watch movies while on the phone. Our favorites were Rush Hour movies, Lethal Weapon movies, and oh that Jet Li movie "Romeo Must Die."
Another thing you should know about Johnny. He always wanted to be a Marine! Ever since he was little & that was all he talked about. He was a member of Young Marines in Waco at this time we were close friends in HS & he used to call me from his weekend shifts there. He loved it & had such a passion for it. I've still to this day never met anyone who knew what they wanted to do with their lives more than Johnny did. You should know Johnny was also the most sincere, kind, thoughtful person. He would never hurt a fly. He was the greatest friend-always there if someone needed them. He was also a very strong person. He would just let things that bothered him slide right off his back & not even worry about it. I really admired that about him the most.
After 4 years in high school together, we did have our ups & downs in our friendship. He joined the ROTC at school & fell into a rather "different" crowd & got into a lot of trouble for awhile. He finally made his way back though in the last year in school. Of course he enlisted in the United States Marines his Senior year-infantry division. I remember the Summer before Sophomore year (maybe Junior?) I went with him & his parents to one of his bowling tournaments down in Corpus Christi. One of the nights there his parents took us to the beach & Johnny was mad. He didnt want to see the beach-he wanted to stay in the hotel & play video games. He said he had his whole future to see the beach & travel the world when he'd join the Marines.
He was stationed in Palm Springs, California after his basic training. We used to email & text while he was out there. I tried to take a bus ride out to visit him, but at that time I'd just started working at the TV station & didnt have any time off. Then he was deployed to Iraq. And he made it back home safely. Of course, Johnny was always going to come home. I got to hang out with him a little while he was home that time. It was February 2006. He was telling me about his deployment & how scary it was. He said bombs would go off right in front of him or right behind him where he'd just walked. He'd lost a lot of friends over there. And he would be going back for a 2nd deployment....
“Maria and I, along with all Californians, are saddened by the loss of Lance Corporal Johnny Strong. His dedication and loyalty to this great country will forever be remembered. Today we honor him for his courageous duty and send our most sincere thoughts and prayers to Johnny’s family and friends in Texas.”
Strong, was a 2004 A.J. Moore Academy graduate, who, friends say, had wanted to be a Marine since he was a child. He was last in Waco in December before starting his second deployment. Strong is the first service member from Waco and the fourth Marine from Central Texas to die in the war.