First Generation Legacy: How a U.S. Marine Forges His Own Path

By Cpl. Daniel Childs

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Johnson Truong is an air support operations operator with Marine Air Support Squadron 3, Marine Air Control Group 38, 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing and a Harrisburg, Pennsylvania native. It is fitting that Johnson hails from a city with as much historical significance to the United States as Harrisburg, as his family legacy was shaped by sacrifice and commitment to a stable life in the U.S.

Johnson’s grandfather, Thanh Truong, is a veteran of the Army of the Republic of Vietnam, a branch of the South Vietnamese military which was trained and advised by the U.S. military until the fall of Saigon in 1975, marking the end of the Vietnam War. Thanh Truong endured nearly a decade of captivity as a prisoner of war, held by the Viet Cong.

“If the United States had not given my grandpa the opportunity to come here, my parents wouldn’t have met and I wouldn’t even be where I am today,” Johnson said. “That’s why I felt like I had to give back in some type of way, and for me, military service was the way to do it.”

Johnson’s parents moved to Harrisburg from Vietnam after the Vietnam War, looking for a fresh start. He is a first generation American and the first Marine in his family.

“I was able to join the military right out of high school,” Johnson said. “My parents had to work day-in and out to provide me that opportunity.“

Johnson is training in preparation to deploy as part of Marine Rotational Force — Darwin, a Marine Air-Ground Task Force forward postured in Darwin, Australia. His role as an air support operations operator involves coordinating fire support missions and communicating with ground units to ensure airspace safety.

Photo credit Daniel Childs

U.S. Marine Corps Cpl. Johnson Truong coordinates fire missions from the Multifunction Air Operations Center in support of Exercise Steel Knight.

In December 2023, Johnson participated in Exercise Steel Knight 23.2, coordinating fire support missions for joint aircraft from the multifunctional air operations center.

"My dedication to coordinating missions aligns seamlessly with my passion for attention to detail,” Johnson said. “In this high-stakes environment, every aspect requires careful coordination, just like working on cars back home. It’s about ensuring every component fits perfectly, whether it’s a mechanical system or a complex mission plan.”

As Johnson embraces his role in the Marine Corps, he says he finds a sense of purpose by remembering his family’s sacrifices and in helping others.

“There are a lot of days when I just want to hang it up, but like every service member says, ‘when it gets tough, always remember the why,’ and one of my 'whys’ is my family, and the sweat and tears they faced coming here,” Johnson said. “I know when I put on the uniform every morning, I’m doing something for myself, my family and for the ones that came before me.”

-This story was originally published on It has been edited for

More Stories Like This

Every day, America’s service members selflessly put their lives on the line to keep us safe and free. Please take a moment to let our troops know how much we appreciate their service and sacrifice.


Sign Up for Updates

Be the first to learn about news, service member stories and fundraising updates from USO.

By participating, you agree to the Mobile Messaging Terms for recurring autodialed donation messages from USO to the phone number you provide & to the Privacy Policy. No consent required to buy. Msg&data rates may apply.

Take Action

The USO relies on your support to help service members and their families.

Ways to Support