The U.S. soldier at the center of the political fight between President Donald Trump and a Florida congresswoman was laid to rest on Saturday.
Mourners filled the Christ the Rock Community Church in suburban Fort Lauderdale, as the widow of Sgt. La David T. Johnson held the arm of an Army officer as she led her family inside.
The family asked reporters remain outside.
Johnson, 25, was one of the four U.S. Special Forces – or Green Berets – killed in the Oct. 4 ambush by militants linked to the Islamic State group in Niger. Three other soldiers were killed in the attack.
For an hour before the service on Saturday, Debbie Valin and her teenage daughter, Michelle Sawn, stood outside the church holding a U.S. flag.
“We are here for the military. We are grateful for the people who serve,” Valin told reporters.
Fred Walker, a Marine veteran, planted small flags along the driveway to the church.
“It’s about doing the right thing for the soldiers. They are not acknowledged enough,” he said.
A public viewing was held at the church on Friday night.
According to the Miami Herald, the evening was focuses solely on Johnson, a father of two with a third on the way.
He was remembered as “a leader” and a “lovable, humble, peaceful person.”
A college scholarship fund for his children – Ah’leeysa, 6; La David Jr., 2; and a daughter expected in January. The GoFundMe account had raised more than $634,000 in donations as of early Saturday afternoon.
The fight between Trump and Rep. Frederica Wilson has taken the focus off Johnson. It began Tuesday when the Miami-area Democrat said Trump told Johnson’s widow, Myeshia, 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!”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.