Two stern portraits of an army sergeant. Henry Johnson stared at the east-west corridors of the National Museum and Memorial of the First World War.
At first, Johnson's portrait on the ground looked like a huge photo. But when you get closer, the faces of thousands of people are revealed from the inside.
It is through these photos—3,500 to be exact—the museums and memorials tell not only the story of Johnson, but also the stories of all American soldiers on this Veterans Day. No approved service
Shortly after midnight on May 15, 1918, Johnson was standing guard at a post on the edge of the Argonne Forest in France when he was attacked by a German sniper.
The 26-year-old Army soldier warned his sentry partner Pvt. Needham Roberts to troops serving under French command. Then he started throwing grenades at the sound of wire cutters.
Roberts didn't go far-he was hit by the German's own grenade.
Johnson ran to Roberts' help and suffered gunfire from the descending German assault team. After his rifle jammed, Johnson used the gun as a club. When it shattered, he blocked the attacker with a Polo knife.
At sunrise, four Germans were killed and another 10-20 were injured. Johnson himself had 21 wounds, but managed to save Roberts.
Johnson is a native of Albany, New York. He is a member of the 15th New York National Guard, also known as the Harlem Hell Warrior.
He was promoted to sergeant, was awarded the French Cross-the "War Cross"-and received the nickname "Black Death". Johnson plans to return to Albany and restart his life as a Red Hat porter, but his injuries are too serious to continue working.
However, these injuries have never been recorded by the U.S. Army. There was no Zixin waiting for him at home, and there was no disability pension for his broken foot. He couldn't find a job, started drinking, and died in 1929 at the age of 37.
Johnson received the Purple Heart, Distinguished Service Cross and Medal of Honor after his death-this is the highest recognition of bravery by the US military, and it will take decades.
Matt Naylor, President and CEO of World War, said: “For a story that is often forgotten, this is a very powerful and extremely important experience. The past is often forgotten." 1 Museums and memorials.
Johnson's murals were created by The People's Picture, the company created about 30 different mosaic works, and appeared as part of the US 250 to celebrate the country's 250th anniversary in 2026.
The size of each tile is approximately 1.5 x 2 inches, and together they form lines and shadows to reproduce Johnson's portrait. These images cover veterans from all branches and eras of the U.S. military.
"The important thing is that the stories we tell may be forgotten, and the sacrifices they made are now usually alienated from many of us," Naylor said. "Veterans Day helps us remember that it is the few who protect the majority."
"I am proud of my uniform"
The 3,500 photos include some of their own volunteers in the World War I museum and memorial.
Bob Dudley, 74, is one of them. Dudley said that the country’s failure to recognize Johnson’s heroic deeds feels a lot like the attitude generally accepted by soldiers returning from Southeast Asia in the early 1970s.
"I was cast aside," said Dudley, a 29-year army veteran in Vietnam, who has been a volunteer at the museum for more than a decade.
Dudley remembers being told to take off his uniform when he returned home so that people would not recognize him as a soldier. "I am proud of my uniform, I always wear my uniform," he said.
He believes that Veterans Day is a powerful reminder that the United States still has work to commemorate its veterans.
"On this day, I think our country is really trying to recognize why we have the freedom we have," he said. "I think when you come in, you will see, you do see a wide range of Americans saying,'I will serve my country.'"
The 73-year-old Jerry Lakey is a Vietnam War veteran and another museum volunteer. His photos help to form Johnson's image-and a photo of his father Delbert Lakey, who served in the South Pacific during World War II. A veteran of the army is also a great uncle who participated in the First World War.
Lekki served in the Air Force for four years. He said that walking through this mural and seeing different faces made him reflect on his lost life.
"I mean, there are about 3,500 people, but you know it's just a legion," he said. "There are millions. Compared with the number of people who died in the war, that's just a drop in the bucket."
But he was also disappointed at how long it took Johnson to get the results he deserved.
"I'm glad he was finally recognized, but it's 100 years too late," Lacky said.
The museum has installed two identical Johnson murals for free viewing. But the display is only temporary: Naylor said it will be removed in a month.