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Fallen Marine honored in Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ga. (AP) -- Marine Gunnery Sgt. Edwin W. Johnson Jr., who died in Afghanistan two years ago, was honored for his service on the day a fellow Marine who tried to rescue him was awarded the Medal of Honor at the White House.

About 50 family members, friends, members of the Marines Detachment at Fort Benning gathered at Green Acres Cemetery in Columbus on Thursday for a memorial at Johnson's gravesite.

The service was requested by former Marine Dakota Meyer, who was honored by President Barack Obama.

"He died for this country. He just didn't die for me. He died for everybody," Latoya Lowe, sister of Marine Gunnery Sgt. Edwin W. Johnson Jr.

Meyer's heroics during the six-hour ambush and firefight saved the lives of 36 people. Firing from a gun turret on top of a Humvee driven by a fellow Marine, he provided cover for his team.

Despite Meyer's heroics, four American soldiers died in the ambush: 1st Lt. Michael Johnson, a 25-year-old from Virginia Beach; Staff Sgt. Aaron Kenefick, 30, of Roswell, Ga.; Corpsman James Layton, 22, of Riverbank, Calif.; and Johnson. Meyer recovered the bodies.

A fifth man, Army Sgt. Kenneth W. Westbrook, 41, of Shiprock, N.M., later died from his wounds.

The Ledger-Enquirer reported Johnson's aunt, Miranda Smith of Columbus, said it was a great honor for Meyer to think of the fallen. "I tell you it is wonderful," Smith said. "For him to go in and bring them out, we never heard the whole story."

Latoya Lowe, Johnson's only sibling, said she never found closure in his death. "He died for this country," Lowe of Columbus said after the brief service. "He was always my hero. Now, he is everybody's hero. I guess I can share that." Lowe said she always looked up to her big brother and tried to be like him. "Everything he did, I always tried," she said. "I thought I could."

Although Johnson had promised Lowe he would return from Afghanistan, Lowe said she knew there was a chance he might not make it. "He died for this country. He just didn't die for me," she said. "He died for everybody."