Nearly two months to the day earlier, Johnston had been in Clinton, Iowa. He played minor-league baseball for the Kane County (Ill.) Cougars, a Class A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics. And he was standing on third base, potentially the go-ahead run.
Finally, Johnston was starting to feel comfortable again. His professional baseball career had been a mess of starts and stops, a traffic light gone haywire, and on June 9, when he dashed home with speed unusual for a catcher and slid in safely, it represented the apex. This was worth celebrating.
So he did, the rush of scoring the winning run equaling anything the military provided. The feeling carried him through the next morning at the gym and back onto the bus, where he checked his phone. There was a message from his commanding officer in the Navy.
Three days later, Johnston boarded the Peleliu in the Persian Gulf. He hasn't played an inning since.