HAWARDEN, Iowa (KCAU) — Basic necessities are important to survival and Army mess sergeant Roger Johnson learned that long before he was drafted into the Vietnam War.

 “I grew up in a family of five boys and you learned how to cook,” Johnson said. “We learned how to bake. We could bake bread. We could do cakes, basically everything. We were taught the basic skills, how to take care of yourself.”

He served meals to hundreds of soldiers each day, but the kitchen was not safe from the dangers of war. When the Viet Cong blew up a nearby ammo dump, Johnson was thankful to be in the right place at the right time.

“There was a piece of 105 shrapnel on the table that I found through my bed in the floor,” Johnson said. “So, if I had been in bed, you wouldn’t be having the interview.”

After his military service ended, Johnson has continued to help other veterans fight for basic needs. He’s the chairman of the Sioux County Veterans Affairs Commission.

“I’ve been on that commission for pretty close to 25 years, helping veterans get the right path to get their compensation, their disability compensation,” Johnson said.

But he also helps prepare the younger generation for survival. He’s been a scoutmaster with the Boy Scouts for over 40 years and through that time, he has built an emotional bond with the scouts.

“What I love is pinning on that eagle badge,” Johnson said. “I cannot do it without crying. I’m soft-hearted when it comes to that.”

Last year was the first year Johnson couldn’t go camping with the boy scouts due to COVID-19 but he’s looking forward to being back next year and sharing survival knowledge with Siouxland’s youth.