Ralph Johnson was a man who gave everything for his country and for the warrior to the left and right of him.
He was born in 1949 in Charleston, South Carolina. As a young man, he would see US Marines walking the streets and he would tell his sister, “You know what? One day, I’m going to wear that uniform.” Sure enough, in 1967 Ralph enlisted in the Marine Corps and was stationed with the 1st Reconnaissance Battalion, 1st Marines Division.
On March 5, 1968, his 15-man reconnaissance patrol was ambushed by a large enemy force on Hill 146 in the Quan Duc Valley. Some of the enemy would have explosives strapped to them. They would run up with grenades in hand and sacrifice themselves with the hope that they took out the Americans as well. When a hand grenade landed in the fighting hole he shared with fellow Marines, Ralph yelled a warning and immediately hurled his body over the explosive charge. Absorbing the full impact of the blast, he was killed instantly. One of the men he would save that day would be 2nd Lt. Clebe McClaryand, who would receive a Silver Star during the same conflict. His heroic actions on that day were recognized with a posthumous award of the Medal of Honor.
Ralph H. Johnson is buried at Beaufort National Cemetery in South Carolina. He has both a Navy destroyer and a VA Medical Center named after him.