|From The Oregonian oregonlive.com
Oregon Marine dies in Iraq
Posted by Rebecca Lacy, The Oregonian December 25, 2008 18:28PM
Marine Lance Cpl. Robert "Robby" Johnson was always the kind of kid who would surprise his mom by doing things other kids couldn't.
But when he joined the Marines, he was more nervous about boot camp than anything else, said his mom, Carol Benker, of Yorba Linda, Calif.
Johnson, 21, of Central Point in southern Oregon died Saturday in Iraq of noncombat causes, Benker said. She said the Marine Corps hasn't disclosed details of his death and won't until an investigation that could take a few months.
The Medford Mail Tribune reported the U.S. Department of Defense announced two U.S. military personnel died Saturday in noncombat incidents but did not identify Johnson or give other information. Further details were unavailable Thursday.
Johnson, who joined the Marines in 2005 after he graduated from Crater High School in Central Point, had just married his wife, Elizabeth, before leaving in August for his second Iraq tour at Camp Baharia, Benker said. He had served six months in Iraq until March 2007.
Johnson was the 126th service member with strong ties to Oregon or southwest Washington to die in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Johnson grew up in California, but his dad, two brothers and sister moved to Oregon, and Johnson split time between the states. His Marine base was at Camp Pendleton north of San Diego.
Johnson, an outdoorsy type, was known to wear cowboy boots and hat and loved hunting, camping, fishing and riding motorcycles.
"He was the one that always stirred up trouble in our family," Benker said.
One particular memory shines in her mind from when he was 3 years old.
"Mom, can I catch the duck?" he had asked before running off in chase. He returned carrying a duck, half as big as he was, Benker said.
Family friend Mike Evans of Central Point said he bonded with Johnson while fishing and camping. Evans remembers Johnson was eager for a beer before first leaving for Iraq.
"He was underage," Evans said.
"So we all drank a beer with him."
While Johnson and his wife hadn't set many plans for their life together, Benker said, Johnson made sure their apartment and car, as well as her needs, were taken care of before he left the country.
He was trained as a driver, drove Humvees during his first tour and operated a gun on the vehicle on his second tour, Benker said.
He would tell his mom there was a lot the U.S. could do to help in Iraq.
Benker usually trusted her son to be safe despite wild adventures -- jumping off waterfalls in Oregon, tearing up his dad's car on drives -- but she was a nervous wreck the first time he served in Iraq.
"The second time, I thought it was safer, and I didn't have to worry," she said. "But obviously the Marines still came to my door."
Johnson's burial is scheduled for 1 p.m. Jan. 2 at Rose Hills Memorial Park & Mortuary in Whittier, Calif. A memorial to follow probably will be held at Table Rock Fellowship in Medford.