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Lud’s flag finally flies at home

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Mother wouldn’t give up quest for Navy vet’s honor

By Ada Lang

In early August of 1989, grouper fisherman, Ludwig Johnson, known as “Lud” to his friends and family, headed out for a few days of fishing and never returned. 

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According to his mother, Marie Johnson, his boat was found and videotaped by the Levy County Sheriff’s Department, still anchored to the bottom of the Gulf. It was raised and buoyed up by two local fishermen, however, when a squall came up, they headed back to shore. The next day they went back out to bring the boat in, but it was gone — never seen again and Lud’s body was never recovered.

Lud Johnson, 44, and the oldest of three children, died six months after his father, Webster. He left behind a wife, Aida, and two young children. His son, Jarret, eight at the time, is now 30 years old and plays for the Baltimore Ravens.

Lud had served in the U.S. Navy for two years, stationed in Pensacola and on a carrier off the coast of Vietnam — working on the flight deck. When he returned to Cedar Key, he returned to the water to earn a living for his family.

Miss Marie, walking slower these days but with a memory that is sharp as a tack, was born and raised in Otter Creek. She has lived in Cedar Key for most of her adult life and is not one to take “no” for an answer.  

At the time of her son’s death, the undertaker told her that she could not receive a military flag for her veteran son, because she was not having a funeral service. 

This didn’t sit too well with Miss Marie and every few years she would make an effort to get a  flag in his honor. 

Sometime after 9-11, she wrote to the Pentagon requesting Lud’s service records so that she could again try to obtain a flag, only to find out that the plane that struck the building during the terrorist attacks had destroyed the “J” section of records.

She explains, “it was a slow process and every so often, I’d try again.”

Five years ago, she was at the Levy County Courthouse “trying to get service ribbons” for her son. She turned to the man in uniform standing next to her and said, “How can I get a flag for my son?”  He replied, “I have a flag right here but you can’t take it with you. You have to arrange a service.”  

Finally, a flag for Lud.

So, with Lud’s widow, Aida, she set a date for a service at the Baptist Church. J.D. McCormick played the piano and the pastor led the family in prayer. A local veterans group sent three men whoperformed a flag service, folding the flag into a triangle and explaining what each of the 13 folds stood for.

She says, “it was a short but very meaningful service” and is proof that there are no limits to a mother’s determination — even twenty plus years later.