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Johnson, La David Terrence (1992-2017)

Image Ownership: Public domain

La David Terrence Johnson was an African American Army Sergeant, vehicle mechanic, and father who was killed in the Tongo Tongo Ambush on October 4th, 2017, alongside three other American soldiers, Sergeants Bryan Black, Jeremiah Johnson, and Dustin Wright. La David Johnson was born on January 2, 1992 in Miami, Florida. He was raised by his parents, Samara Johnson and Terrance McGriff, until 1999 when his mother passed away. Johnson was then sent to live with Richard and Cowanda Johnson when he was only five.

Johnson enjoyed a comfortable childhood and early adulthood, where he was active in many extracurriculars, including football. In 2010 he graduated from Miami Carol City Senior High School, and later found a job at a local Walmart. Here he was known by friends as the “Wheelie King” due to his frequent antics involving a one-wheeled bicycle. It was after this when Johnson decided to further his career by enlisting in the U.S. military, and after basic training, he joined an “Advanced Individual Training” school, where he trained to become a mechanical engineer.

On August 22, 2014, Johnson married his fiancée Myeshia Manual and started a family. Together they had two children, Ah'Leesya Johnson and La David Johnson Jr., with a third unborn, La'Shee Johnson, on the way. By 2014 Johnson, now four years in the Army, was recognized for numerous achievements and awards, including the Army Achievement Medal, the Army Good Conduct Medal, the Global War on Terrorism Medal, the Army Service Ribbon, and the Army Parachutist Badge.  By this point he was promoted to Sergeant.

On August 28th, 2017, Sgt. Johnson left for his second, and final, deployment with the U.S. Army. He was assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne), and sent off to the African nation of Niger, where he and his group rendezvoused with Nigerien soldiers to gather information on the whereabouts of a high ranking Islamic State militant.

This mission led them to the west Nigerien village of Tongo Tongo, when on October 4th, 2017, the soldiers intended to visit village leaders to gather intel. Instead, the villagers stalled the soldiers until they were ambushed by approximately 50 ISIS militants, who were armed with RPGs, mortars, and other heavy munitions. The assault lasted over half an hour until French fighter jets frightened off the remaining ISIS belligerents. The attack resulted in the death of four Nigeriens, four Americans (including Johnson), and 21 of the 50 assaulters.

Johnson’s body was located two days later, nearly a mile away from the site of the ambush. His hands were tied and a bullet wound was found in the back of his head, leading to the tragic conclusion that Johnson was separated from his group, captured, and executed by the enemy. Additional remains of Johnson’s were found over a month later in the same spot.

A funeral was held for Johnson on October 21, 2017 where over 1,200 people attended. He is survived by his wife, three children, his dad, two grandparents, nine sisters, eight brothers, and numerous extended family members and friends. At the time of his death he was only 25 years old.

Alex Horton, “More remains belonging to Sgt. La David Johnson found in Niger, military says,” The Washington Post, November 21, 2017; Siobhán O'Grady, “What the Hell Happened in Niger?,” The Atlantic (October 2017); Sgt. LaDavid Terrence Johnson,


University of Washington, Seattle

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