Friends and family of Sgt. La David Johnson, one of the four U.S. Army soldiers killed in an ambush attack in Niger, gathered on Saturday at Christ the Rock Church in Cooper City to say their final farewells to the young man they consider a hero.
The church was packed Johnson’s immediate family, but also droves of distant cousins and family friends that came to honor the memory of the 25 year-old sergeant raised in Miami Gardens. Organizers estimate that close to 1,000 people attended the service.
Johnson’s family requested that no media be allowed inside the church during the service, but the hymns playing could be heard from across the parking lot. And just after Johnson’s wife Myeshia Johnson arrived with the couple’s 6 year-old daughter and 2 year-old son, it started to pour which only made the day feel even more somber.
Myeshia Johnson was escorted inside by an Army officer, and the entire immediate family all wore white to the ceremony, with red roses pinned on their chests to signify the 5000 Role Models of Excellence, the local program credited with turning around his life.
Many community members and friends that attended described the service as a very emotional one, but a dignified send-off for an American hero.
There was not one mention of the political turmoil that happened over the last week between President Trump and Congresswoman Frederica Wilson over some of the president's words during a call to Myeshia Johnson. All speakers - including Wilson - concentrated rather on Johnson’s sacrifice.
One of Sgt. Johnson’s sisters, Tornisha Ghent, said she’ll remember him for his extraordinary personality.
“He was a loving, free-spirit person. So, he loved everybody — he was a peaceful person,” she said.
Johnson’s other sister, Angie Ghent, said after the funeral service, that his reputation for being the “Wheelie King” is what she will hold on to.
“The Wheelie King. That bike, that bike. I’m gonna remember that bike,” she said. “If you see a missing wheel, that was his bike. He rode it everywhere for hours. Nobody could compete with him, he’d always win. That’s my brother and I love my brother and I know he love my sisters.”
A veteran motorcycle group called the Patriot Guard Riders even came to join in Johnson’s procession to Hollywood Memorial Gardens cemetery and honor his love for biking.
His godsister, Lakia Smith, said Johnson would always come watch her at cheerleading practice. Another family friend said his smile is what stands out in her memory. The tales went on and on.
The Pentagon is still investigating why Sgt. Johnson’s body was found about a mile away from where his team was ambushed in Niger. In addition to Johnson, three other U.S. soldiers were killed.