Derby resident Ken Johnson was a POW, decorated Air Force pilot

Not many local residents know the name Kenneth R. Johnson, nor his story, but like millions of his fellow citizens, Johnson served his country as a member of the U.S. armed forces.

His service as an Air Force pilot, though, was exemplary, and for it, he received numerous commendations.

Among them was the Silver Star, which is awarded for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States and the third-highest military decoration.

In addition, he received two Purple Hearts, two Distinguished Flying Crosses, two Bronze Stars, two Air Force Commendations and 15 Air Medals.

Johnson also went through the ordeal of being a prisoner of war in Vietnam. Like many ex-prisoners, Johnson didn’t dwell on the experience afterward, nor talk about it much, but continued to serve in the military, completing a 24-year tenure.

Late this summer, the quiet warrior died at age 77. His passing received little attention, say friends and family, who want others to know his story – and the sacrifice he undertook when his country called.

Gary Read, a longtime Derby resident who has lived next door to Johnson and his wife, Linda, for about 15 years, said he had no idea of the magnitude of his neighbor’s military accomplishments.

“After I found out about them all, I thought: ‘this guy’s a hero,’” he said. Read said he can understand Johnson’s low-key approach to his past, especially his war service. 

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