A local U.S. Army veteran of Afghanistan and Iraq received a Congressional Veteran Commendation for the Ninth District of Indiana on Dec. 11.

Magnus Johnson, who served as a Green Beret, was honored both for his wartime and civilian community service by Rep. Todd Young, R-Indiana, during a ceremony at Veterans Hall.

“You are helping so many other veterans deal with challenges as they return, and we’re thankful for that,” Young said.

After a friend and fellow service member committed suicide in 2013, Johnson channeled his grief into the founding of Elder Heart, an organization that strives to bridge the divide between communities and their veterans through the creation of art.

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The “Soaring” leaf sculpture in the heart of Nashville, which was created by veterans and local artist Jim Conner, is one of Elder Heart’s earliest projects.

Johnson has gone on to help found Mission 22, an organization dedicated to ending veteran suicide. Mission 22 is working to create a national memorial to bring attention to an estimated 22 daily veteran suicides.

The monument will feature 22 steel plates, each cut with the silhouette of an actual veteran lost to suicide.

The only remaining need for the memorial to be built is a place to erect it, Johnson said.

The organization’s goal is to create something that reminds communities and the nation to take ownership of their veterans not just today, but for generations to come, he said.

“We want to create lasting legacies,” Johnson said.

People pay more attention to action than to words, he said.

“We didn’t want a complaining group, a resentful group or self-pitying,” Johnson said. “We wanted to look at ourselves and say, ‘What could we add to the community? How could we bring in more love, more respect, more honor to the community?’”

The Congressional Veteran Commendations come from nominations. They recognize both wartime sacrifices and the peacetime community involvement of veterans.

“The great sacrifices of our veterans deserve the utmost recognition, and our office is proud to help ensure that their devotion to this country is not forgotten,” a description on Young’s website reads.

Three other veterans also were presented commendations at the ceremony: World War II U.S. Army Air Force veteran James “Lee” Hutchinson from Lawrence County, Vietnam U.S. Navy veteran Bert Dodds from Morgan County and Vietnam Marine veteran Thomas Lee Mitchell Sr. from Clark County.

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Ben Kibbey is a Brown County transplant from the cornfields of central Ohio. He covers county government, business, outdoors, sports and general news.