Funeral service held for fallen soldier at centre of dispute over Trump's remarks

A funeral service was held Saturday for a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa sparked a political spat between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman.

Trump calls congresswoman 'wacky' for criticizing his comments made in phone call to soldier's widow

Sgt. La David Terrence Johnson, 25, was killed in an ambush in Niger, along with three other American soldiers and four from Niger. President Donald Trump is now accused of making insensitive comments to his widow, who is six months pregnant. (U.S. Army Special Operations Command via AP)

A funeral service was held Saturday for a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa sparked a political spat between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman.

Services for Sgt. La David T. Johnson were held Saturday in a Fort Lauderdale, Florida, suburb. Johnson was one of four U.S. Special Forces troops killed Oct. 4 in an ambush in Niger by militants linked to the Islamic State group. Four soldiers from Niger also died..

Johnson's widow held the arm of an army officer as she led her family, dressed in white, into the Christ the Rock Church in Cooper City. The family asked that reporters remain outside.

The squabble between Trump and Rep. Frederica Wilson began Tuesday when the Miami-area Democrat said Trump told Johnson's pregnant widow that her 25-year-old husband "knew what he signed up for."

Myeshia Johnson is presented with the U.S. flag that was draped over the casket of her husband during his burial service in Hollywood, Fla., on Saturday. (Matias J. Ocner/Associated Press)

The scandal follows Trump's boast that he has done more than other presidents to console the families of fallen solders.

Johnson's widow, Myeshia, is due to give birth to a daughter in January. Sgt. Johnson told friends she will be named La'Shee. The couple, who were high school sweethearts, already have a six-year-old daughter, Ah'Leeysa, and two-year-old son, La David Jr. An online fundraiser has raised more than $600,000 to pay for the children's education.

The Miami Herald reports that Johnson's mother died when he was five and that he was raised by his aunt. His family enrolled him in 5000 Role Models, a project Wilson began in 1993 when she was an educator to mentor African-American males and prepare them for college, vocational school or the military. He worked at Walmart for several years before joining the military in 2014.

A year before he enlisted, Johnson was featured in a local television newscast for his ability to do bicycle tricks, earning the nickname "Wheelie King." He said he learned his tricks by going slow.

"Once you feel comfortable, you could just ride all day," he told the interviewer.

The fight between the president and Wilson began Tuesday when the Miami-area Democrat said Trump told Myeshia Johnson in a phone call that her husband "knew what he signed up for" and didn't appear to know his name, a version later backed up by Johnson's aunt. Wilson was riding with Johnson's family to meet the body and heard the call on speakerphone. She was principal of a school Johnson's father attended.

Rep. Frederica Wilson, a Democrat in Florida, is standing by her statement that President Donald Trump told Myeshia Johnson, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, that her husband 'knew what he signed up for.' Trump says Wilson's description of the call has been 'fabricated.' (Alan Diaz/Associated Press)

Trump tweeted Wilson "fabricated" his statement and the fight escalated through the week. Trump in other tweets called her "wacky" and accused her of "SECRETLY" listening to the phone call.

Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, entered the fray on Thursday. Kelly asserted that the congresswoman had delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field office dedication in which she "talked about how she was instrumental in getting the funding for that building," rather than keeping the focus on the fallen agents for which it was named. Video of the speech contradicted his recollection.

Wilson, who is black, fired back Friday when she told The New York Times "The White House itself is full of white supremacists."

The retorts persisted Saturday, with Trump tweeting on Saturday morning: "I hope the Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!"

In a tweet posted Thursday, Trump said Wilson heard a 'very personal call' to the soldier's widow and 'gave a total lie' on what was he said. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.