COOPER CITY, Fla. (AP) —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.
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. Four soldiers from Niger also died.
Debbie Valin and her teenage daughter, Michelle Shawn, held a U.S. flag outside the church in Cooper City more than an hour before the service.
“We are here for the military. We are grateful for the people who serve,” said Valin, whose grandson just completed Marine boot camp.
Fred Walker, a Marine veteran, planted small flags along the driveway into the church.
“It’s about doing the right thing for the soldiers. They are not acknowledged enough,” said Walker, who served from 1983 to 1989 as a tank gunner and substance abuse counselor.
The fight between Trump and Rep. Frederica Wilson has taken the focus off Johnson, whose 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.