COOPER CITY, Fla. — Mourners filled a church in Florida on Saturday to honor a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman.
The widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson held the arm of an Army officer as she led her family, dressed in white, into the Christ the Rock Community Church in suburban Fort Lauderdale. The family asked that reporters remain outside.
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Johnson, 25, was one of four U.S. Special Forces troops killed Oct. 4 in an ambush in Niger in an attack by militants linked to the Islamic State group. The service also honored the three soldiers who died with him.
Mourners exiting the 90-minute service told reporters that a portrait of Johnson was joined by photographs of Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.
Mourners said the service also focused on how Johnson became a locally known bicycle trick rider, a loving husband and doting father before entering the Army in 2014 and becoming a member of the Special Forces.
Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, is due to have a daughter in January. Sgt. Johnson told friends she will be named La’Shee. The couple, who were high school sweethearts, already had a 6-year-old daughter, Ah’Leeysa, and 2-year-old son, La David Jr. An online fundraiser has raised more than $600,000 to pay for the children’s education.
The service follows a week of political back and forth between Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.), Trump, White House chief of staff John Kelly and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders over the president’s condolence call to Johnson’s widow.