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Congressman Denny Heck

Representing the 10th District of Washington

Spare soldiers’ families from Twitter wars

Oct 23, 2017
In The News

Unfortunately, as with most things associated with President Trump, what should have been a simple act of condolence from a commander in chief to a bereaved family member quickly devolved into a he said/she said Twitter war.

Congresswoman Frederica Wilson (D-Fla.) reported hearing Trump’s phone call to Myeshia Johnson, the wife of Army Sgt. La David Johnson who died early this month while on patrol in remote West Africa, an area known for drug smuggling, human trafficking and extremists fighting to establish Islamist rule.

A special operations unit came under heavy fire. The ambush mortally wounded Johnson and three other Green Berets: Staff Sgts. Bryan Black, 35, of Puyallup, Jeremiah Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio; and Dustin Wright, 29, of Lyons, Ga.

It was right for Trump to pick up the phone and call the families, but Wilson alleges he struggled to recall the widow’s husband by name and told her the soldier “knew what he signed up for.” (Myeshia confirmed many of these details in her first interview Monday.)

Before he contacted the families, Trump was asked by news media what was taking so long — and then gave false comparisons: “If you look at President Obama and other presidents, most of them didn’t make calls - a lot of them didn’t make calls. I like to make calls when it’s appropriate.”

There’s plenty of proof that Presidents Obama and George W. Bush called or met with bereaved families.

Trump’s chief of staff, Gen. John Kelly, later escalated the fight by inaccurately maligning Rep. Wilson’s past statements on an unrelated matter. Over the weekend, Trump and Wilson kept at it; he called her “wacky” while she invoked Benghazi.

Americans should expect all their public officials, whether elected or appointed, to cease and desist from this rhetoric immediately. They ought to mirror the standard of excellence modeled by U.S. troops.

The savagery of recent political sniping detracts from proper recognition of the four fallen soldiers, including one who grew up right here in Pierce County.

Black was a local son. In 6th grade, he taught himself chess and tied for 2nd place in a national championship. He graduated from Puyallup High School in 2000, earned his AA from Pierce College and was a varsity wrestler at Central Washington University, where he earned a degree in business.

Black joined the military in 2009. His competitive spirit propelled him to the elite Green Berets. In Niger, he learned the native language so he could gain the trust of people there.

We’ll take some liberty and say what he cherished far above his various military accolades was family, including his devoted wife Michelle and two sons, Ezekiel and Isaac.

We heartily second the words of U.S. Rep. Denny Heck who said we should never forget the medical sergeant and his comrades “and the amazing work they do in some of the most hostile and dangerous parts of the world.”

On behalf of a grateful nation and community, we honor the ultimate sacrifice made on Oct. 4 by Black, Wright and two heroes named Johnson. We offer our deepest condolences to their spouses, children and parents.

Now Trump has a moral duty — we all do, really — to protect the loved ones from collateral damage of the Twitter wars, and to recognize what President Lincoln called “the sacredness of sorrow.”

The four deaths in Niger are the worst single loss of U.S. forces under fire since Trump took office. They won’t be the last, as we in the South Sound and at JBLM are profoundly aware.

If criticism comes, and it will, just take it, Mr. President. You knew what you signed up for.