Families recall 3 N.C. soldiers killed by Taliban

The Associated PressOctober 6, 2012 

— Family members are sharing memories of three North Carolina Army National Guard soldiers killed by a Taliban suicide bomber in Afghanistan this week.

Sgt. Jeremy F. Hardison, 23, of Greensboro; Sgt. Thomas J. Butler IV, 25, of Leland; and Staff Sgt. Donna R. Johnson, 29, of Raeford were among 14 people killed Monday when a Taliban suicide bomber on a motorcycle drove into a joint U.S.-Afghan patrol in Afghanistan. The soldiers were assigned to the 514th Military Police Company, which is based in Winterville.

Hardison joined the National Guard so that he could attend school and then design and build aircraft, his family said in a statement Saturday. Hardison was a driver for a Greensboro trucking company before the 514th left North Carolina for training at Fort Bliss, Texas, in June. The unit departed for Afghanistan in early August.

He attended White Oak High School in Jacksonville, played the trombone, and taught himself to play guitar. His wife, Brittni, said she remembers him as a “kind and respectful husband” who loved his stepdaughter Alyssa.

Sgt. Thomas Butler IV of Leland attended Cape Fear Community College and saw education and the National Guard as the way to a career as a law officer, said his wife Holly. The two met when in 2006 when he was a senior at Topsail High School; they married two years later.

“While TJ was passionate about reaching his goals and his dream career, nothing was more important to TJ than our family,” she said in a statement. “More than anything he wanted to provide for us and give my son and me a good life. Anyone who knew TJ knew that he was proud to serve his country and was so very thankful for the opportunities being in the service had given us.”

Johnson was a former state prison guard and a military police officer and had worked in bomb training at Fort Bragg.

Her family said in a statement they want to remember Johnson “as a mission focused professional who gave her life serving her country and performing a job that she loved and excelled at.”

She “was a reserved and private person who had a close group of friends” and four dogs. She is survived by her spouse, Tracy Dice.

Funeral arrangements for all three soldiers were incomplete Saturday.

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