National Disgrace: America Fails to Honor 4 Army Heroes Killed in Africa

We should all be ashamed by the controversy over President Trump’s condolence call to Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow.

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, Sgt. La David Johnson, Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson were killed in Niger on Oct. 4, 2017.

By Tom Sileo Published on October 24, 2017

How did we get here?

How on earth did politicians and journalists allow the deaths of four American warriors in Niger to become anything other than a moment of national unity?

How can those responsible for this ugliness sleep at night knowing that the only tangible result of their bickering is having added to a grieving widow’s already incomprehensible pain?

Almost eight years ago, I left a newsroom job to begin telling the stories of our nation’s fallen troops. Before long, I was conducting frequent interviews with Gold Star family members for a weekly newspaper column. My conversations with grieving military spouses, parents and siblings are now embedded in the deepest part of my soul.

One moment I’ll never forget is attending a memorial service for a young U.S. Marine who had been killed in Afghanistan. On that painful day, the fallen hero’s widow was pregnant with the couple’s first child as she mourned beside his open casket. The look of palpable despair on her face – and the audience’s absolute silence – was unlike anything I had ever witnessed.

Like that resilient widow, Myeshia Johnson was forced to experience the loss of her husband while carrying his unborn child. The couple has two more children together, both of whom are very young.

Why didn’t anyone think of these three Gold Star children, who will grow up looking at photos of their father instead of hugging him, before deciding to spew divisive political rhetoric?

Myeshia Johnson

From left to right: Richard Johnson Sr., holding La David Johnson Jr., Ah’Leesya Johnson and Myeshia Johnson, the wife of Army Sgt. La David Johnson, attend the soldier’s burial in Hollywood, Fla., on Oct. 21, 2017.

The Hideous Public Feud

Democratic Rep. Frederica Wilson should not have shared sensitive details of President Trump’s condolence call to Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow. After Rep. Wilson spoke out, journalists should have exercised restraint instead of helping ignite a damaging national controversy.

At the same time, President Trump is the elected leader of our country and commander-in-chief of its Armed Forces. Instead of defending himself by attacking Rep. Wilson and members of the press, he should have put the grieving soldier’s family first.

The president’s failure to end the media circus by personally clarifying his remarks to Myeshia Johnson and refusing further public comment was a dereliction of duty. A soldier’s ultimate sacrifice and the grief of his or her family are bigger than politics, which all politicians and journalists involved in this fiasco should have recognized.

Nobody won this hideous public feud. Most importantly, America’s newest Gold Star families, who had already lost their loved ones, also lost the chance to grieve in an atmosphere free of divisive partisanship and full of dignity and grace.

From the moment military messengers knocked on her door to the day of her husband’s funeral, Myeshia Johnson shouldn’t have had to think about anything other than the well-being of her children. Instead, she was put in an impossible position for a grieving widow.

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Several Gold Star wives have told me that due to intense emotional fog, they barely remember flying to Dover Air Force Base to meet their husbands’ flag-draped caskets. The thought of having to deal with a chaotic barrage of media inquiries on top of that devastation is more than almost any human being could bear.

America’s Let Down All Four of Our Fallen

America didn’t just fail to adequately honor and respect the Johnson family. We let down the loved ones of Staff Sgts. Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson and Dustin Wright, too. Few Americans heard their stories of selfless devotion as this controversy spiraled out of control.

All of us must do better. As Americans, we are eternally fortunate that young men and women like these four fallen patriots volunteer to protect us. We are equally lucky that their families are willing to sacrifice so much time with their loved ones in order to serve a higher purpose.

What if a courageous young man or woman decides not to enlist after this terrible episode? Why do military spouses now have to worry about being turned into a national spectacle if their loved one is killed in action? Weren’t military families already under enough pressure after 16 years of constant war?

These are uncomfortable questions, but nothing compared to the anguish being experienced by Myeshia Johnson, her children, and three more grieving families. They didn’t deserve to be dragged through the Beltway’s political mud after their loved ones made the ultimate sacrifice on foreign soil.

What these and all Gold Star families deserve is our eternal thanks and constant prayers. If we never let this happen again, maybe they will someday find it in their hearts to forgive us.


Tom Sileo is co-author of three military books: 8 Seconds of Courage, Brothers Forever and Fire in My Eyes. He can be followed on Twitter @TSileo.

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  • Hmmm…

    I absolutely follow you, sir, about the President and Congresswoman Wilson, but the grieving widow … kind of broke ranks here in my, I think, clear observation. By the same token of being suffused with grief, in that state, how does one authorize their Congressional representative to run to a mike to diss the President’s condolence call before the deceased is even buried … and then as quickly after the funeral as possible, leave those small children and go to ABC studios in NY to publicly air that pique. The calls and plans for the studio appearance had be arranged about the same time as the funeral arrangements were going on. Huh? Who does this?

    There’s good news — this is not a national disgrace. This is a narrower scope of the Democratic Hit Squad in motion, playing on the President’s Achilles heel of making himself a heel over an offense coming his way. Hey, there’s bucks and bows for these two gals. They are counting on the social pressure of the moment and circumstance for cover on any scrutiny that may come their way. Sorry, but the bold brass of their actions blares out for anyone with eyes to see.

  • #EpluribusAwesome

    “All of us must do better.” — NOPE. It is not US who made this disgraceful situation. And whatever portion of the blame lies with Trump it is still small compared to the true culprits, because he has to defend himself constantly from a hostile press who obviously cares nothing for the American people only their pitiful losing agenda. Trump cares for the military. I don’t doubt that.

    • Matthew Wade

      I agree with you. Anyone who thinks President Trump took time out of his busy day to call a grieving military spouse with the intent to be disrespectful in any way is simply retarded. ANYONE that has ever spoke to someone in a deep state of grief knows how hard it is to find the proper words to express any kind of sentiment. General Kelly spoke of this exactly. And you can be sure that President Trump was reading from a cue card when he spoke to this woman. So to fumble over some words, or even struggle to say the name properly are completely understandable. He took the time to show some respect and that’s ALL that ever needed to be reported, if even that.

  • Chip Crawford

    The tone of this article, its premise, kind of reminds me of being in school or some group where somebody messed up, on the job maybe, and the leaders call everybody together and chew them out over it. It’s not accurate or helpful. There’s no correction for the culprits, but a gloss over, and there’s guilt put on the innocent. What is said here may well apply in some circumstance, but not this one. Hey, if we don’t I.D. and address the core issues, they can’t be corrected. Just to excoriate everyone in the country over this is hardly fair and certainly ineffective. I respect the calling and occupation of the author, but respectfully consider him to be off center in this instance.

  • jgmusgrove

    Well and correctly said, sir.

  • Linda

    Thank you.

  • handydan

    Thank God for all the troops who serve and die for our country. Screw the leftists who make political capital from the blood of these brave men.

  • Hmmm…

    Think about the little girl in this picture, old enough to see her mother on national television making a scene over the president’s call, right after they lost her daddy. What an example. More confusion to add to her grief.

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