Trump's condolence call 'made me cry even worse', says widow of US soldier killed in Niger

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The widow of a US Army sergeant killed in Niger this month said on Monday a condolence call from President Donald Trump "made me cry even worse" when he said that her husband "knew what he signed up for".
Myeshia Johnson, wife of US Army Sergeant La David Johnson, receives the flag which draped his coffin at a graveside service in Hollywood, Florida, on Oct 21, 2017. PHOTO: REUTERS

WASHINGTON (WASHINGTON POST, NYTIMES) - Nineteen days after her husband's death and two days after his wrenching burial, the widow of Sergeant La David Johnson said she has "nothing to say" to President Donald Trump, whose condolence call pulled the grieving widow into the centre of a national controversy.

"Very upset and hurt; it made me cry even worse," Ms Myeshia Johnson told Good Morning America about her conversation with the president.

The President had waited 12 days to comment on the soldiers' deaths and allegedly forgot Sgt Johnson's name while speaking to his widow.

"He couldn't remember my husband's name," Ms Johnson said. "The only way he remembered my husband's name is because he had my husband's report in front of him and that's when he actually said 'La David.' I heard him stumbling on trying to remember my husband's name. And that's what hurt me the most. If my husband is out here fighting for our country, and he risked his life for our country, why can't you remember his name?"

But a defiant Mr Trump tweeted on Monday (Oct 23), "I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!"

Making her first public comments since she took the call from Mr Trump last week - on the same day her husband's remains were flown back to the United States - Ms Johnson recalled that the president said her husband "knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyways. And it made me cry. I was very angry at the tone of his voice, and how he said it."

She added: "I didn't say anything. I just listened."

Her husband was killed in action in West Africa on Oct 4, one of four US soldiers who died in Niger when Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants attacked them.

His body was flown back to the United States on Tuesday. Soon after, his name became entangled in a controversy after Mr Trump was accused of making insensitive remarks to the 25-year-old soldier's widow.

Representative Frederica Wilson, a Florida Democrat, said Mr Trump told Ms Myeshia Johnson on the phone that her husband "must have known what he signed up for", an account later corroborated by Ms Johnson's aunt and custodial mother, Ms Cowanda Jones-Johnson. She also said that Mr Trump forgot the soldier's name.

Mr Trump had earlier vehemently denied Ms Wilson's account, stating without evidence that he had proof it was "totally fabricated". But White House Chief of Staff John F. Kelly later appeared to confirm Ms Wilson's account.

Ms Myeshia Johnson said on Monday that Ms Wilson's version of events was "100 per cent correct".

Photos from Saturday's funeral and burial in Hollywood, Florida, showed relatives sobbing and members of Sgt Johnson's battalion, the "Bush Hog" formation, breaking down in tears.

Just before he was buried, Ms Myeshia Johnson kissed the casket.

But in her interview on Monday with ABC's George Stephanopoulos, she said she's not totally convinced her husband's remains were inside.

"Why couldn't I see my husband? Every time I asked to see my husband, they wouldn't let me," she said. "They won't show me a finger, a hand. I know my husband's body from head to toe. They won't show me anything. "I don't know what's in that box. It could be empty for all I know."

Mr Trump did not attend the funeral; a White House press pool report said the president spent part of his Saturday at Trump National Golf Club in Virginia.

As questions continue to swirl around the circumstances of Sgt La David Johnson's death, Ms Myeshia Johnson said she has some of her own "that I need answered".

Chief among them, she said: "I want to know why it took them 48 hours to find my husband... When they came to my house, they just told me it was a massive gunfire and that my husband, as of Oct 4, was missing. They didn't know his whereabouts."

Then, she said, "he went from missing to killed in action... I don't know how he got killed, where he got killed or anything."

Sgt Johnson was a mechanic attached to a 3rd Special Forces Group team that was partnered with Nigerien forces. They unexpectedly came under attack during a morning operation that also killed Staff Sgt Bryan C. Black, 35, Staff Sgt Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39, and Staff Sgt Dustin M. Wright, 29.

The deadly operation is now under US military investigation.

To those who knew him, Sgt Johnson was a loving husband who had his wife's name tattooed across his chest; a soldier who pushed to improve himself; a son who enjoyed talking about his family.

He was also a father who was looking forward to seeing his baby girl: Myeshia is six months pregnant.

The couple also have a two-year-old son and six-year-old daughter.

"He was very excited. He said, 'Sergeant B, I'm having a girl!'" Staff Sgt Dennis Bohler, Sgt Johnson's close friend, told The Post last week.

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