Weeks after her husband was killed in action in Niger, the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson said she is still seeking answers to two questions that haunt her: Why couldn’t President Trump remember her husband’s name during a condolence call, and why has her family not been provided with the details surrounding her husband’s death?
Making her first public comments since speaking with Trump last week, Myeshia Johnson told “Good Morning America” on Monday that Trump stumbled recalling her husband’s name and told her that her husband “knew what he signed up for.”
“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?” she said.
Trump on Monday disputed Johnson’s account, characterizing his conversation with her as “very respectful.”
On the program, Johnson said she has “nothing to say” to President Trump, whose condolence call pulled the grieving widow into the center of a national controversy.
“Very upset and hurt; it made me cry even worse,” Myeshia Johnson said about her conversation with the president. She added that she was angry with Trump’s tone and that she “didn’t say anything. I just listened.”
She also had questions about how her husband’s body went missing for 48 hours.
“He went from missing to killed in action,” Johnson said. “I don’t know how he got killed, where he got killed or anything.”
On Monday, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff provided more details about the deadly operation in Niger.
At the Pentagon briefing, Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford outlined a timeline from Oct. 3 to Oct. 6 during which time American and Nigerien forces were caught in a surprise attack by Islamic State militants, three U.S. soldiers were killed in action, and one remained missing for two days.
“We owe the families as much information as we can find out about what happened, and we owe the American people an explanation of what their men and women were doing at this particular time,” Dunford said.
On Oct. 3, 12 members of the U.S. Special Operations Taskforce accompanied 30 Nigerien forces on a civil military reconnaissance mission from Niamey — Niger’s capital — to an area roughly 85 kilometers to the north, Dunford said. At that time, “contact with the enemy was unlikely,” Dunford said.
On the morning Oct. 4, both groups began moving back toward an operating base to the south when they came under attack by forces using small arms, rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns.
After one hour of heavy fire, Dunford said the team requested support, with initial backup arriving within minutes and French jets arriving within the hour. During the firefight, three U.S. soldiers — Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35; Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson, 39; and Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29 — were killed in action and evacuated the night of Oct. 4. La David Johnson remained missing until the evening of Oct. 6, when his body was found and evacuated.
“From the time the firefight was initiated, until Sergeant Johnson’s body was recovered, French, Nigerien or U.S. forces remained in that area,” Dunford said.
His body was returned to the United States on Oct. 7. It was sent home to Florida last week. Soon after, his name became entangled in a controversy after Trump was accused of making insensitive remarks to the 25-year-old soldier’s widow.
Rep. Frederica S. Wilson (D-Fla.) said Trump told Myeshia Johnson on the phone that her husband “must have known what he signed up for,” an account later corroborated by Johnson’s aunt and custodial mother, Cowanda Jones-Johnson.
Trump vehemently denied 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 Wilson’s account. Myeshia Johnson said Monday that Wilson’s version of events was “100 percent correct.”
Johnson said several people — including her aunt and uncle, an Army official, and Wilson — heard the conversation because Trump was placed on speakerphone.
“Why would we fabricate something like that?” she said.
Just before her husband was buried, Myeshia Johnson kissed his casket.
But in her interview Monday with ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, she said she’s not fully convinced her husband’s remains are 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.”
Wilson shared the “Good Morning America” interview on Monday, noting: “Myeshia Johnson Speaks From Her Heart.”
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 three others.
The deadly operation is now under U.S. military investigation.
To those who knew him, 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 meeting his baby girl: Myeshia is six months pregnant. The couple also have a 2-year-old son and 6-year-old daughter.
“He was very excited. He said, ‘Sergeant B, I’m having a girl!’ ” Staff Sgt. Dennis Bohler, Johnson’s close friend, told The Washington Post last week.
The slain soldier’s youngest daughter is expected to be born in January.
“I want to tell her how awesome her dad was and how a great father he was and how he died as a hero,” Myeshia Johnson said when asked what she’ll tell her youngest daughter.
The president’s tweet did not go over well with Rep. Tim Walz (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the House Committee on Veterans’ Affairs.
Amy B Wang and Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.