Georgia Stories

Alan Johnson, Atlanta

(Nominated by Julie Barnes)
The King Center
January 14, 2011

I have known Alan for more than 30 years. I believe he has earned the honor of stitching the National 9/11 Flag because of his devotion to the United States, his interest and dedication to the liberties our system provides, his military service, his continued service to veterans and young people through his active involvement in the American Legion, and because of his experience as a pilot on 9/11.

While still in high school, a guidance counselor steered Alan to two summer programs, both of which had a profound and lasting influence on his life. The first was the American Legion Boys’ State, a one week program for rising high school seniors from all over Georgia. The second was a week-long internship in Congressman Newt Gingrich’s office. He remains fully engaged in politics, educating friends and strangers on the goals of our Founding Fathers for our nation, the privilege of freedom and the many reasons this country deserves and requires active involvement by all citizens.

He joined the Georgia Army National Guard completing Warrant Officer and helicopter school.  He attended Army Fixed Wing school in 1986 and flew missions in support of then Vice President Bush’s program against drugs for several years.  He became a pilot for American Airlines in 1990, and left the Army in early 1992, serving over 12 years, six of which were on active duty.

Alan received the invitation to join The American Legion in 1995. As a member of Post 304, he has published their newsletter since May 2005, winning second and first place awards for three of those years. He served as Senior Vice Commander from 2006-2008 and as Commander since 2009, a term that will end June 2011. Alan participates in the American Legion’s youth programs,  including the National High School Oratorical Contest, Constitutional Speech Contest; Boys State; ROTC programs and awards; The American Legion School Award.  Alan recently told me about working with youth through American Legion: “Working with the youth of North Cobb County allows me to see the greatness of America’s youth and gives me the security that our country will have great leaders in the future.”

On September 11, 2001, Alan was the International Officer on American Airlines flight 111 from Rome to Chicago.  They received word of the attacks while over Ireland and were instructed to land in London.  From there, the American crew watched coverage of the attacks. Alan and the flight crew spent four days in London before returning home.  He was on the first American Airlines flight back to the U.S. We have discussed more than once the deep, permanent impression that 9/11 made on us, and for Alan as a pilot in the air at the time, and for one of the airlines that was hijacked, it was particularly poignant