Sgt. La David T. Johnson was one of four U.S. Army soldiers killed on Oct. 4 in an attack in Niger. In an interview Monday morning on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” his widow, Myeshia Johnson, addressed the controversy surrounding President Donald Trump’s condolence phone call.
Johnson explained that she was in a limo with her family on Tuesday headed to Miami International Airport to receive her husband, who was flown in from Dover Air Force Base. That’s when she received a phone call from the president.
“We were literally on the airport strip getting ready to get out,” she told ABC News chief anchor George Stephanopoulos. “And [Trump] called Master Sgt. Neil’s phone.”
Johnson said she then asked Master Sgt. Neil to put his phone on speaker “so my aunt and uncle could hear as well.”
“The president said that ‘he knew what he signed up for, but it hurts anyway,’” Johnson said.
“And it made me cry because I was very angry at the tone of his voice and how he couldn’t remember my husband’s name.
“The only way he remembered my husband’s name is because he told me he had my husband’s report in front of him and that’s when he actually said La David. I heard him stumblin’ on trying to remember my husband’s name and that’s what hurt me the most, because 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.
“And that’s what made me upset and cry even more because my husband was an awesome soldier.”
She went on to say that it took her husband less time than most soldiers to achieve an E-5 Army rank.
“It took my husband three years to make E-5 — it takes other soldiers five to six years just to make E-5.”
She said that if her husband was alive he’d be on his way to an E-6 or E-7 ranking.
“My husband had high hopes in the military career,” Johnson said.
Stephanopoulos asked her, “What did you say to the president?”
“I didn’t say anything. I just listened,” Johnson responded.
She said she was “very upset and hurt” when she got off the phone.
According to Politico, there was a public statement of condolence drafted and circulated by the National Security Council for Trump to make “almost immediately after a deadly ambush of U.S. soldiers in Niger earlier this month.”
“The statement was circulated among NSC officials as well as Defense Department officials,” Politico reports. “But it was never released, and it was not immediately clear why.”
And two weeks later, Trump made the phone call to Johnson.
Trump denies on Twitter that he made the comment to U.S. Army Sgt. La David T. Johnson’s widow in a phone call.
Last week, Rep. Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) first spoke of Trump’s condolence call. The president denied making the comment that Johnson knew what he signed up for.
“Whatever Ms. Wilson said was not fabricated,” Johnson’s widow said. “What she said was 100 percent correct. It was Master Sgt. Neil, me, my aunt, my uncle and the driver and Ms. Wilson in the car, the phone was on speakerphone. Why would we fabricate something like that?”
Johnson said Wilson “has been in our family since we were kids,” and her husband was in the congresswoman’s 5,000 Role Model program.
When Johnson, 25, was killed, he was beginning a deployment with the U.S. team of “Bush Hogs” from the 3rd Special Forces Group. He and his team were ambushed in the Republic of the Niger.
In the interview with Stephanopoulos, Johnson’s widow also said that the military has told her little about what happened in West Africa, and she is upset that she has not been allowed to see her husband’s body.
“They won’t show me a finger, a hand,” she said. “I know my husband’s body from head to toe.”
She said of her husband’s coffin, “I don’t know what’s in that box, it could be empty for all I know.”
On Oct. 6, Nigerian troops recovered his body for a return of remains ceremony Oct. 7 at the Dover Air Force Base in Delaware, according to ABC 10.
Johnson’s funeral took place Saturday afternoon. He was buried at the Hollywood Memorial Gardens cemetery.
Shortly after Johnson’s interview aired on “Good Morning America,” Trump tweeted the following:
I had a very respectful conversation with the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, and spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 23, 2017
See Myeshia Johnson’s interview: