Airman with Chicago ties killed in Afghanistan

October 6, 2010 (SCHILLER PARK, Ill.)

Twenty-three-year-old Daniel Johnson was a newlywed. He got married just four months ago.

Johnson died Tuesday as he tried to deactivate a bomb near Kandahar, Afghanistan when an improvised explosive detonated, injuring the sergeant and killing Johnson. He lived in northwest suburban Schiller Park before moving to California.

He had one of the toughest assignments in the military - explosive ordinance disposal - commonly known as the bomb squad. Every job is literally a life or death operation. But his family says he loved it.

"He believed it was his job and he took it serious and he enjoyed it and he was proud and believed in what he did," said Will Johnson, brother.

He was on his second tour of duty for the Air Force, this time in Afghanistan after earlier serving in Iraq. Johnson had been there only a month and a half after getting married in June. He met his wife Kristen in California where he was assigned to Vandenberg Air Force Base.

After growing up in Wisconsin, Johnson moved to the Schiller Park home of his grandmother where he studied for a time at Triton College. But his desire to fight for his country drew him to the Air Force.

"His motivation was a need for taking responsibility for his own life and the belief that he needed to contribute and to serve his country," said Will Johnson.

His family says he was looking forward to finishing his deployment and starting his life with his new wife. She recently battled cancer but had recovered. He hoped to have children.

"It seems so surreal. You always know the possibility is there. It never seems real until it's too late," said Will Johnson.

Johnson was a three sport athlete in high school. He worked at a Christian youth camp every summer. His family says he was popular and always surrounded by friends. While they are still coming to grips with his death, they are comforted by the strong Christian faith they shared with him.

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