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  • Writer's pictureBill Raines

Wife of the Late K-9 Trainer and Police Chief Mike Johnson Sounds Alarm on USS Norton Sound

LAWRENCE COUNTY - JULY 7, 2022 - Bonnie Johnson, wife of Retired K-9 Trainer and Police Chief Michael Johnson made an appeal to warn about asbestos exposure from the USS Norton Sound.

Michael served in the Navy for seven years, severed as Bedford Police Officer for 27 years, Mitchell Police Chief, and K-9 Training Officer.

USS Norton Sound received two battle stars for her service during World War II. Which was launched on December 28, 1943, commissioned on January 8, 1945, and Decommissioned on December 11, 1986.

Seaplane Tenders main purpose was to provide maintenance and support of seaplanes. They were the first aircraft carriers, and appeared just before World War I. During World War II, seaplane tenders were used to supplement aircraft carriers. However, these ships are not as necessary as they used to be due to technological advances and most have been scrapped or converted to helicopter repair ships. Unfortunately, men on seaplane tenders were exposed to asbestos while aboard these vessels. Asbestos was found in a number of areas on these ships, in particular the insulation that lined piping.

Michael and his wife, moved to Bedford about 33 years ago after they first got married. Johnson retired from the United State Navy, came to Bedford to serve as a police officer.

"His first in the Navy, he received a certificate he was going to be one of the officers decommission the ship. " When we found out he was sick with asbestos positioning in 2018. He went to see his physician see what his level going to be. The doctor pulled up all his information 250 out of the 300 plus men and women died from the mesothelioma," said Bonnie Johnson.

" My question is why we did not get warning from the military years before, we could have fought it. He was on way to lung transplant. He worked for K-9 Training Officer. When he was denied the transplant and sent home to Hospice. It was very unexpected to me. I would like to protect and save other people who was on the ship. If they are still alive, they need to go through testing," told U.S. Senator Braun.

" If we were just notified 5 to 10 years previously, he just started by not being able to breath. Walking up stairs and walking became difficult for Michael after being a very strong man. When he got sick, he got very sick," said Johnson.

" The military has all the names, and they can reach out to all those who are currently still alive and give them proper notification to get tested," added Johnson.

Braun stated his office can find out whether they are being proactive on this matter.

At the time those working was only given paper masks, and no breathing equipment to prevent any exposure at the time. She left her contact information with Senator.

According to Veterans Affairs Officer Brad Bough stated the VA dragged their feet stalled it out two weeks before they would let Michael in the enroll VA health system.

Bough says if this ship has this issue, they are other ships that have asbestos on them and if this is acted upon other veterans could be saved.

Bonnie told the Lawrence County Zephyr that you can do better with treatment is it is found early. A person should not have to find out until they are terminal. There has to be a better way of communication and protect those who have served their country.

" I hope something good can come out of this," Johnson concluded.

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