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Funeral for Soldier at Center of Fight 10/21 11:13

   Mourners have filled a church in Florida Saturday to honor a U.S. soldier 
whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight between President Donald 
Trump and a Florida congresswoman.

   COOPER CITY, Fla. (AP) -- Mourners filled a church in Florida on Saturday to 
honor a U.S. soldier whose combat death in Africa led to a political fight 
between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman.

   The widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson held the arm of an Army officer as she 
led her family, dressed in white, into the Christ the Rock Community Church in 
suburban Fort Lauderdale. The family asked that reporters remain outside.

   Johnson, 25, was one of four U.S. Special Forces troops killed Oct. 4 in an 
ambush in Niger in an attack by militants linked to the Islamic State group. 
Four soldiers from Niger also died.

   Debbie Valin and her teenage daughter, Michelle Shawn, held a U.S. flag 
outside the church in Cooper City more than an hour before the service.

   "We are here for the military. We are grateful for the people who serve," 
said Valin, whose grandson just completed Marine boot camp.

   Fred Walker, a Marine veteran, planted small flags along the driveway into 
the church.

   "It's about doing the right thing for the soldiers. They are not 
acknowledged enough," said Walker, who served from 1983 to 1989 as a tank 
gunner and substance abuse counselor.

   The fight between Trump and Rep. Frederica Wilson has taken the focus off 
Johnson, whose widow, Myeshia, is due to have a daughter in January. Sgt. 
Johnson told friends she will be named La'Shee. The couple, who were high 
school sweethearts, already had a 6-year-old daughter, Ah'Leeysa, and 
2-year-old son, La David Jr. An online fundraiser has raised more than $600,000 
to pay for the children's education.

   The Miami Herald reports that Johnson's mother died when he was 5 and that 
he was raised by his aunt. His family enrolled him in 5000 Role Models, a 
project Wilson began in 1993 when she was an educator to mentor 
African-American males and prepare them for college, vocational school or the 
military. He worked at Walmart for several years before joining the military in 
2014.

   A year before he enlisted, Johnson was featured in a local television 
newscast for his ability to do bicycle tricks, earning the nickname "Wheelie 
King." He said he learned his tricks by going slow.

   "Once you feel comfortable, you could just ride all day," he told the 
interviewer.

   The fight between the president and Wilson began Tuesday when the Miami-area 
Democrat said Trump told Myeshia Johnson in a phone call that her husband "knew 
what he signed up for" and didn't appear to know his name, a version later 
backed up by Johnson's aunt. Wilson was riding with Johnson's family to meet 
the body and heard the call on speakerphone. She was principal of a school 
Johnson's father attended.

   Trump tweeted Wilson "fabricated" his statement and the fight escalated 
through the week. Trump in other tweets called her "wacky" and accused her of 
"SECRETLY" listening to the phone call.

   Trump's chief of staff, John Kelly, entered the fray on Thursday. Kelly 
asserted that the congresswoman had delivered a 2015 speech at an FBI field 
office dedication in which she "talked about how she was instrumental in 
getting the funding for that building," rather than keeping the focus on the 
fallen agents for which it was named. Video of the speech contradicted his 
recollection.

   Wilson, who is black, fired back Friday when she told The New York Times 
"The White House itself is full white supremacists."

   The retorts persisted on Saturday morning, with Trump tweeting: "I hope the 
Fake News Media keeps talking about Wacky Congresswoman Wilson in that she, as 
a representative, is killing the Democrat Party!"


(KA)

 
 
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