Caroline Johnson, Widow of New Britain Firefighter, To Attend State Of The Union In D.C.

Hartford Courant

When Caroline Johnson’s cellphone showed a call from Washington, D.C., she first worried that it might be Arlington National Cemetery officials with a complication about her husband’s burial.

After all, it had taken a lengthy campaign to have Scott Johnson, a popular city firefighter and Coast Guard veteran, laid to rest at Arlington in late November.

Instead, the call was U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy inviting her to be his guest at the Capitol when President Donald Trump gives his State of the Union speech Tuesday.

“i was shocked and surprised,” Caroline Johnson said Wednesday. “You don’t get these telephone calls all the time. I certainly don’t.”

Murphy, who had pitched in with the drive to get Scott Johnson buried at Arlington, said he is pleased Caroline Johnson will attend. Each federal lawmaker is allowed to bring a guest to the Capitol for the speech.

“Scott was a hero in our community,” Murphy said. “I’m honored I could play a very small part in helping make Scott’s dying wish to be buried next to his father in Arlington National Cemetery a reality, and I want to continue to help spread Caroline’s family’s story. Cancer has torn apart too many families, including too many people close to me.”

For Johnson, it will be an opportunity for her work to improve awareness of colorectal cancer. She also will advocate for earlier colonoscopies; she is convinced that a screening would have detected the cancer that killed her husband at age 43.

“It was diagnosed when he was 41, so he already had it in his 30s. He was telling doctors that something was wrong, but they didn’t do the colonoscopy” until his cancer had spread, she said.

“They say colonoscopies should start at 50. That age should be 35 or younger,” she said. “It’s so avoidable, it’s so preventable, but nobody is listening. Health care professionals aren’t listening, doctors aren’t listening, insurance companies definitely aren’t listening.

“I need to make sure Scott did not die in vain. The men and women who fight this disease need an advocate for the importance of earlier screening and detection and research for a cure, and I am not one to back down from that challenge.”

Scott Johnson was a New Britain firefighter and a former chief petty officer in the U.S. Coast Guard when he died last August. Caroline Johnson had to enroll the help of Murphy and others to arrange burial at Arlington next to Scott’s father Roy Johnson, a Marine Corps veteran and Purple Heart recipient.

“I invited Caroline to be my guest at the State of the Union speech to shed light on the inspiring good news story of her husband's life and her family's courageous work to find treatments and cures for the cancer that took Scott's life,” Murphy said.

He acknowledged Wednesday that he is unlikely to welcome Trump’s remarks Tuesday.

“My expectations are very low,” Murphy said, but added that he would applaud Trump if he pursues the Buy America initiatives that Murphy has championed in the past.