After the Niger ambush: Faces of the fallen US soldiers

The four U.S. servicemembers killed when they were ambushed by Islamic extremists in West Africa last week were all decorated soldiers.

Two American troops also were wounded in the ambush in Niger near the Mali border. The dead also included four Niger military members. The Islamic State was believed responsible.

The U.S. and Niger forces were leaving a meeting with tribal leaders when they were attacked.

The Pentagon said all four soldiers who were killed were assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group, based at Fort Bragg, N.C.


Sgt. Ladavid Johnson, 25.  (Department of Defense)

Sgt. Ladavid Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida.

Johnson was known as the “Wheelie King” to thousands on social media. He would ride from his home to his job at the Walmart in Pembroke Pines on one wheel of his bicycle, WPLG-TV reported.

His mother’s death shaped him, and he was a gym and church regular who believed in hard work, the station reported.

“My brother stood for something,” Angela Ghent, his half-sister wrote, according to the station. “He fought for his country and that’s how he will be remembered.”

The names of his wife and two children were tattooed on his chest.

His wife Myeshia Johnson wrote on his Facebook page Monday that months ago he told her that he didn’t want anyone putting his face on a RIP shirt in the event he was killed.

“If you are dear true friends and family of my husband you will respect his wish and refrain from coming to his viewing or his funeral with his face on a shirt,” she said.

Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, died from wounds sustained during enemy contact. All three Soldiers were assigned to 3rd Special Forces Group (Airborne) on Fort Bragg. The incident is currently under investigation

Black, a native of Puyallup, Wash., enlisted in the Army in October 2009. His awards and decorations include the Army Good Conduct Medal, National Defense Service Medal, Global War on Terrorism Service Medal, Army Service Ribbon, Special Forces Tab, Ranger Tab, Parachutist Badge, Air Assault Badge, and Marksmanship Qualification Badge - Sharpshooter with Rifle. Staff Sgt. Black served as a Special Forces Medical Sergeant (18D).

Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35  (Department of Defense)

Staff Sgt. Bryan Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington.

A neighbor of Black’s family told Q13 Fox that she never knew he was fighting our country.

“What an honor it is to live across the street from them,” Whittney Kamel said.

Black’s mother was a teacher.

His sister-in-law remembered him as a great father and husband, the station reported.


Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29.  (Department of Defense)

Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia.

Wright joined the Army soon after graduating Toombs County High School.

His aunt, Terri Criscio, told Southeast Georgia Today that her nephew was a lovable jokester who never met a stranger and would give his last dime to someone in need.

“He made the ultimate sacrifice,” Criscio said. “He is our hometown hero.”

Wright took great pride in being able to serve his country, cousin Denise Collins told the news outlet.

“I told someone today that Dustin knew exactly what could happen one day when he signed up and he was ready for it,” she said. “He was ready to serve our country to the best of his ability and the fact he was a Green Beret proves to me that he did that.”


Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39.  (Department of Defense)

Staff Sgt. Jeremiah Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio.

Johnson was known where he grew up as a red, white and blue, rock-solid American with a great heart, WLWT-TV reported.

He was a husband and the father of two children.

A former neighbor of Johnson’s parents told the station she knew Johnson was in Africa.

“We knew where he was, and he wasn’t in a good place,” Teena Baldridge said. “It was just heartbreaking.”

The Dayton Daily News quoted her husband, Jeff Baldridge, as saying that Johnson was doing what he really wanted to do.

“He really wanted to be an NCO (noncommissioned officer) in the United States Army,” he said.

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