By Frederica Wilson for the Miami Herald
Much has been made in the national media about my account of President Donald Trump’s condolence call to Myeshia Johnson, of Miami-Gardens, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, whose life was tragically taken by jihad extremists in southwestern Niger — one of four soldiers killed.
As I have stated, I was in the limousine with Johnson’s widow, his aunt and uncle, a driver and a military official who had the phone as the president talked. We were headed to the airfield where Johnson’s flag-draped coffin was to arrive.
I stand by my comments that the president told Myeshia that her husband “knew what he signed up for” and that his death “hurts anyway.” These were highly inappropriate comments to a grieving widow, 24 years old and six months pregnant. The president can refute my account, but family members who were in the car support it.
I remain livid that the president dismissed this local hero’s sacrifice. However, the reality is that there is so much more at stake.
Johnson’s death is very personal to me. His remarkable, but too-short life exemplifies what I hoped every boy who enrolled in the 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project would achieve when I founded the program more than 25 years ago. His two younger brothers followed him into the program and are forging their own paths to success. Everyone in this family matters to me.
That is why I have pledged to do everything I can to help them heal, which will require an exhaustive investigation into the circumstances of the ambush that left Sgt. Johnson and three other U.S. soldiers dead.
The men were part of a 12-man team providing training and security assistance to West African armed forces when they were attacked by about 50 members of Al Qaida-Islamic Maghreb. This remorseless organization enjoys an allegiance with Boko Haram, the Nigerian terrorist group whose defeat I have fought for since it kidnapped 279 Nigerian schoolgirls more than three years ago.
There are many questions and too few answers: Why were the men inadequately armed and traveling in unarmored vehicles? How did Johnson get separated from his team, and why did it take 48 hours to locate his remains? Might he have survived if found sooner? Were the local villagers in cahoots with the terrorists? What steps will the Department of Defense take to ensure that our soldiers are properly equipped and supported to address terrorist threats posed in Niger and the Lake Chad region?
I will not rest until these and other questions have been answered.