Fort Hood: Soldier killed in combat remembered by family and friends

KILLEEN, Texas (KWTX) Hundreds, including family and friends, packed inside the First Baptist Church of Killeen Monday to honor and celebrate the life of Sgt. James Johnston.

Johnston, 24, was killed on June 25 while serving in combat in Afghanistan. He was assigned to 79th Ordnance Battalion (Explosive Ordnance Disposal), 71st Ordnance Group at Fort Hood. Johnston and another soldier, Master Sgt. Michael B. Riley, died as a result of wounds sustained from small arms fire while engaged in combat operations supporting Operation Freedom's Sentinel.

As memories were shared during the service, tears and laughs also came.

"He was always a jokester but at the same time, serious about his job. We all respected one another, we all grew close, we were homies until the end," said McFrank Nguyen, who also serves in the U.S. Army.

Johnston's fellow soldier reminiscing on the fond memories.

"James was probably the funniest person you could ever meet. Didn’t matter how bad the situation was, he always came out and somehow made it bearable," John Kozlowski said.

Those who knew him also honored his love for Hawaiian shirts by wearing their own at the service.

As his wife, Krista, told the congregation, James Johnston never met a stranger. His home was always open to his friends.

“My husband, who took in many of you as family, who took in many of you as family. I know y’all thought y’all were friends, but soon as he took you guys in, you became family to him," she said.

Johnston's father, Richard, says that even with the risks, his son was always willing to make the sacrifice.

“I sit here, stand here, I’ve shed a lot of tears. It’s not because of my loss, it’s our loss. My tears are out of my pride for my son," he said.

Johnston, who will be cremated, leaves behind his wife, parents and a daughter he will never get to meet.