[Spc. Charles] Ames, 21, from Maine, was in the Humvee with Johnson when a rocket-propelled grenade hit the vehicle and exploded. He said Johnson survived the blast and was taken to the hospital. "We had a good feeling that he was gonna make it," Ames said. Johnson died during surgery hours later.

"He was a great leader," Ames said, and always "looked after us." Ames, who suffered various burns in his legs at the explosion, said he was glad to be in Richford for the funeral. He came back to the United States on leave Feb. 1 and is expected to return to Ramadi on Feb. 17, he said.

Vermont National Guard Adjutant General Martha Rainville said that Johnson was an "extraordinary young Vermonter" who "took with him his rural Vermont values."

She remembered him as a man of "quiet strength and humble dedication." Rainville shared breakfast with Johnson a couple of days after Christmas in Iraq and said that it was his "inner strength" that meant so much to the people he served.