Decades after serving in the Vietnam War, Michael Johnson expressed that this is the first time he’s truly been thanked for his service. Though Johnson prefers to fly under the radar, he couldn’t be happier about his new roof.

Decades after serving in the Vietnam War, Michael Johnson expressed that this is the first time he’s truly been thanked for his service. Though Johnson prefers to fly under the radar, he couldn’t be happier about his new roof.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

Vietnam veteran receives new roof

By: Kathryn Pentiuk | Southfield Sun | Published June 8, 2024


SOUTHFIELD — “I’m still walking around in a daze. My wife and I  … it’s unbelievable — nothing like this has ever happened,” Michael Johnson, a U.S. Air Force veteran and Southfield resident of 30 years, said of his new roof.

“So we’re very grateful,” he said. “This is helping us deal with a lot of stress in terms of a deteriorating roof. So we feel very grateful and we’re very happy,” Johnson said.

On May 8, contractors from Schoenherr Roofing, an Owens Corning Platinum Roofing contractor, got to work on Thorndyke Street as part of the Owens Corning Roof Deployment Project and Habitat for Humanity Oakland County.

“He put in an application, I think, three years back and hasn’t heard anything since he put in that application. And I was actually the one to surprise him with a phone call. He thought I was just a roofing company calling to give him quotes to replace his roof, so he didn’t answer,” Caleb Nichols, the director of finance and operations at Schoenherr Roofing, said. “Then he called me back, and he was just extremely ecstatic that he was going to get a free roof replacement.”

The Owens Corning Roof Deployment Project was started in 2016 in partnership with the nonprofit Support Our Troops and Habitat for Humanity to “inspire, activate and match its network of independent Platinum Preferred Contractors with military families around the country to deliver and install a free, new roof,” states a press release.

“The OC roof deployment started back about five or six years ago,” Nichols explained. “Since then, they’ve done over 550 homes now for veterans in need. So that’s when Owens Corning, the manufacturer of the shingles, started doing it. And they’ve gone through Habitat since they started doing it themselves. So, about five and a half years. We’ve been doing it with Owens Corning for about the same amount of time, maybe a little less longer.”

He added that Schoenherr Roofing has done around four roof installations through the Habitat for Humanity and the Owens Corning Roof Deployment Project, and that Schoenherr Roofing has also done multiple roof replacements independently for veterans in need.

Nichols’s favorite part of the free roof installation is watching the veterans’ reactions.

“They’re all unique in their own ways, but they all kind of have the same message of just overall joy and happiness,” he said. “Watching Michael, which is the homeowner that we’re doing the roof for today, he said it’s just brought so much energy to himself and his wife.’”

In 1970 and 1971, Johnson was in the Air Force, stationed in North Dakota, where he was the security person for the atomic missile sites. When he was in Vietnam, he was a tower guard.

“It’s interesting, because in 1968, I was involved in anti-war protests. And then a couple of years later, I was there,”  Johnson said.

He explained that he entered the service when he was 19 years old.

“We were told never to volunteer, but I did anyway because I had a bunch of friends, we just graduated from high school. And some of them didn’t want to go to college. So, they joined the military. I was in college, but I thought that I wanted to just see the world and do different things. How naive I was, but pretty much most of the guys I know have served.”

When Johnson returned home, it was a difficult adjustment because he had returned to a completely different world.

“When I got back home, it was kind of tough, because things had changed. There weren’t any drugs in the community like they were when I got back. When I got back, I went to school and got my bachelor’s degree, master’s degree. And I’ve always worked two jobs. And I’ve had different businesses, like I used to be an insurance agent. I used to be a real estate appraiser.”

He added that his time in the military taught him important skills, such as discipline, an eye for detail, and organization skills, which he carried with him in everything he did following his service.

“They’re not just veterans. They’re humans, just like anybody else. Being able to serve those who served you and your country — there’s no greater joy,” Nichols said.

Reflecting upon his time in Vietnam and receiving his new roof, Johnson realized that he had never really been thanked for his sacrifice until now.

“After all these years, this is the first time I’ve actually been hearing that. And so, yeah, I don’t feel bad. I don’t brag about it. I mean, I got buddies who wear their Vietnam gear all the time. And that’s fine. But I’m like a ‘I think I’ll just go under the radar’ kind of guy.”

For more information on the Owens Corning Roof Deployment Project, visit

To learn more about Habitat for Humanity Oakland County, visit

For more information on Schoenherr Roofing, visit