U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Quinn Johnson-Harris of Milwaukee was the kind of guy who made everyone laugh and smile, said his instructor, Sgt. Calvin Freeman. But he was also a quick study, who was always one step ahead in training.
“He was the heart of the squadron. He was the best of us,” said Freeman, who roomed with Johnson-Harris at Dyess Air Force Base in Texas.
Johnson-Harris, 21, a 2012 graduate of Homestead High School in Mequon, was killed early Friday when an American C-130 transport plane crashed while taking off from Jalalabad Air Field in Afghanistan. The crash killed six airmen and five civilian passengers on the plane and an unknown number of people on the ground.
The cause of the crash is under investigation.
Johnson-Harris, 39th Airlift Squadron loadmaster, was on a four-month rotation in his first tour in Afghanistan.
For Johnson-Harris, joining the military was part of a family tradition.
His grandfather served in Vietnam and his oldest brother, Jeremy Johnson, was a Marine. Older brother Lamar Johnson-Harris, a 2015 graduate of the U.S. Military Academy in West Point, N.Y., is in the Army.
His mother, Yvette Johnson, recalled that her three sons stood at their grandfather’s grave site, saluted and vowed to serve the country. At the time, Quinn was just 2 years old, she remembered.
“He was the baby of the bunch,” she said Saturday. “He had to follow in the footsteps of his siblings.”
Johnson-Harris attended Nicolet High School as a sophomore and as a junior and senior went to Homestead High School, where he played football.
At school, his nicknames were Swag and Quinninator, his sister Fa-tia Johnson recalled. In 2013, he joined the Air Force. In the military, everyone called him by the initials J.H.
“He wanted to do his part, serve his obligation to the country,” she said.
There was a fun-loving side to him, too.
“We were foodies,” she said. “We’d always go out to restaurants or State Fair and taste everything new. I’d always tell him to send me pics of food.”
Lamar Johnson-Harris said he always helped his brother strive to do the best. “I was rough on him, tough on him,” he said. “I wanted to set the example of the man I wanted him to be. We did everything together.”
His mother said that “Quinn dared to be different. He beat by his own drum.”
One of her son’s formative experiences, she said, was when he and other students at Milwaukee College Prep school went to New Orleans to help build houses after Hurricane Katrina.
Johnson-Harris’ girlfriend, Lauren Olson, said he loved being in the Air Force. She said he had a remarkable capacity to start every day “with a clean slate.”
“He was one of the most forgiving people I ever met,” she said. “He was so mature, beyond his years yet he was also fun.”
The family said funeral services are pending.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Airman Quinn Johnson-Harris from Mequon was laid to rest at Arlington National Cemetery on Tuesday morning, November 3rd.
Johnson-Harris, a 2012 graduate of Homestead High School in Mequon, was a senior airman in the U.S. Air Force, and was on his first deployment in Afghanistan, when he was killed in a plane crash on October 2nd.
Hundreds lined the streets of Milwaukee on October 24th and dignitaries from near and far came to honor Johnson-Harris. This, as a lengthy motorcade accompanied his casket to Christian Faith Fellowship Church for Johnson-Harris’ funeral.
“He died serving his country and I respect that — and anybody who’s flown or anybody who’s served in our military respects that,” said Obsee Sampson, retired Air Force.
Those who loved him and those who never knew him turned out to thank the 21-year-old for the way he lived his life and to say their final goodbyes.
“We had so much support today at Quinn’s funeral. We are truly blessed,” said Fatia Johnson, Johnson-Harris’ sister.
Johnson-Harris’ family and friends were joined by other service members and a long line of state and local officials, including Governor Scott Walker and both of the state’s U.S. senators (Tammy Baldwin and Ron Johnson).
“There’s no greater love than to lay down your life for your friends, for another. And while he’s filled with a family that loves America, there’s no greater way to show that love than to do what Quinn did,” said Governor Walker.
While there were tears and tremendous sadness for those who knew him best, this was most definitely a celebration of the man that Johnson-Harris was — and the fact that he lived.
“The main thing I want people to know about Quinn is that he was an awesome individual, cared about everyone, selfless and an amazing person,” said Fatia Johnson.
Airman Quinn Johnson-Harris, 21, was a graduate of Homestead High School in 2012.
“He was my best friend, and it’s sad to see him gone,” his sister, Fa-tia Johnson said.
A U.S. Air Force C-130J military transport plane crashed overnight at an air base in eastern Afghanistan, killing six American airmen and five civilians on the aircraft, the U.S. military said Friday.
The crash happened shortly after midnight Thursday at Jalalabad air field, 80 miles from the capital, Kabul, said U.S. Air Force Maj. Tony Wickman, spokesman for the 455th Air Expeditionary Wing.
The airmen were assigned to the 774th Expeditionary Air Lift Squadron, part of the 455th, and the plane, a Super Hercules, crashed “shortly after take-off wholly within the airfield,” he said.
The six U.S. service members who died comprised the plane’s crew. The passengers were civilian contractors working with NATO’s Resolute Support mission and were the only passengers on board, Wickman added.
“He was an amazing individual, and we really lost one, but you know what they gained an angel, and he took him too soon, but you know what it might have been his time, the Lord wanted him home,” Fa-tia Johnson said.
Johnson-Harris’ high school football coach said he left a mark in the classroom and on the football field.
“I was fortunate enough to have Quinn in class. In addition to coaching him, he was in my algebra class,’ Homestead High School football coach David Keel said.
Keel said he knew the Air Force had one of the best when they chose Johnson-Harris.
“He came back one day in his Air Force uniform, and he could not have been more proud to be wearing the red, white and blue of the United States,” Keel said.
The family said before Johnson-Harris left to serve his country he joined Christ Church in Mequon. It’s where he was baptized.
“When he heard about the assignment to go into Afghanistan, he was excited. He was ready to go,” Fa-tia Johnson said.
He had been in Afghanistan was less than a month.
Johnson-Harris’ brother, Lamar Johnson recently graduated from West Point.
Hundreds filed in for the funeral, thousands more lined the streets, a small thanks and honor to the airman who died three weeks ago.
The 21-year-old and 2012 graduate of Homestead High School died in a plane crash in Afghanistan.
At Saturday’s funeral, those in attendance shared tearful moments but also talked about Johnson-Harris’s sacrifice and his military service. And plenty of people shared memories about his personality, how much fun they had with them.
The long line of cars in the processional stopped halfway during its procession when pallbearers removed the casket, draped it with an American flag and placed it on a horse drawn carriage. It would be the image remembered by people paying their respects to the young airman they might not even know.
Others, including Jordan Pettit, have a clearer image of Quinn Lamar Johnson-Harris having spent so much time with him through high school. She calls him a goofball, “but, you know, there is that side, he put up that facade around people. He always wanted people to feel good and happy but when it came down to it he could be really serious. And he was very, very loving toward his family, and friends. Always trying to help other people – a selfless person.”
Arriving at Christian Faith Fellowship Church, Johnson-Harris’s mother swayed to the music.
In attendance, Governor Scott Walker even joined in on the singing going as far as to sing ‘God Bless America’ as a prayer.
Each time a speaker spoke about Quinn, the focus always landed on his family.
His mother’s longtime pastor offered these words of healing, “every time that you feel like you’re overwhelmed with the fact that he’s no longer here – you can say ‘God, I thank you that I put him in your hands. Every time that you think that you’re not going to be able to bear it you can say ‘God, I know you got him and I know you got me’.”
Internment for Johnson-Harris will happen on November 2 at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.