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Airman Makes Good on Promise
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By John Ingle / 82nd Training Wing Public Affairs
SHEPPARD AIR FORCE BASE, Texas, Aug. 5, 2004 — Airman Diana Herbert's reason for serving in the Air Force is simple. She made a promise.
She did not seek or want the attention she is getting, but that does not change the enormity of her promise to her brother, Army Pfc. Rayshawn Johnson.
Herbert, 18, fulfilled her pledge July 28 when she graduated from the aircraft fuels systems apprentice course here.
Johnson was not at the graduation ceremony. He was killed Nov. 3 in Tikrit, Iraq, when his Humvee hit a land mine. He was a combat engineer in the 299th Engineering Battalion, 4th Infantry Division.
"This was to fulfill a promise to my brother," she said.
Herbert said she had visited with a recruiter in Brooklyn, N.Y., weeks before her brother's death. She had even taken the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and was waiting to learn when she would enter.
Her brother had spoken with her about how the Army had changed his life and how it could change hers. It would be a change that would take her from the foster family system in New York that she, Johnson, and their younger brother, Michael Johnson, had known for years.
She was returning from a movie when she saw Michael outside their home, crying.
"He never cries," she said, sensing something was not right.
That's when she heard about her brother's death.
"My first reaction was 'it's not true. Maybe it was someone else,'" she said. "He always protected me. I always relied on him."
Herbert said the news of her brother's death did not really hit home until about a week afterward when she and Michael received a letter from him.
"When my letter came ... my younger brother thought he was alive," she said.
Herbert struggled through the first weeks of basic training at Lackland Air Force Base, Texas, particularly when Taps would play. Her thoughts would immediately go to the day her family buried her brother.
As the days passed and she continued on to technical training here, she looked to her brother for strength and encouragement. "Anytime I feel I can't do anything, I think about him," she said. "It reminds me why I'm here, and makes me want to try harder."
The airman's next assignment is at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base, Ariz., where she will work on A-10 Thunderbolt IIs and C-130 Hercules.
There could be a sequel to this story of triumph over tragedy. Younger brother, Michael, is planning to join the Marines; another testament to the impact one person, one soldier, can have on someone else.