Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, always relished a challenge. As a child, he drove himself to learn chess; as a teen, he excelled as a wrestler; and as an adult, he joined the Army, where he finished Ranger school and joined the Special Forces. Deployed to Niger, he learned the local dialect.
Before joining the Army, Staff Sgt. Jeremiah “J.W.” Wayne Johnson, 39, owned and operated a successful business. In uniform he became a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist.
Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, was a good student and talented athlete. When he joined the Army he continued a family military legacy dating to 1812.
Sgt. La David T. Johnson, 25, was known to be both determined and playful, as demonstrated by how he commuted to a job at Walmart — removing the front wheel of his bike and becoming known as the “Wheelie King.”
These are the four soldiers who were killed Oct. 4 when their unit was ambushed by Islamist extremists in West Africa. Their lives, their brave service and the sacrifice of their grieving families should be discussed and honored.
Instead — thanks to a president with a compulsive need to be the center of attention — their deaths have been trivialized. President Donald Trump reduced condolences to a political competition and treated the grieving families who received them as pawns in a game.
Having failed to publicly acknowledge the deaths for 12 days, Trump on Monday boasted about reaching out to family members of slain military personnel while falsely accusing his predecessors of not doing so. His whining about how hard the calls are on him — and the apparent hash he made of a conversation in which he allegedly told one widow her husband “must have known what he signed up for” — underscored his cluelessness about being commander in chief.
Trump then worsened his offense by attempting to exploit the combat death of the son of his chief of staff, John Kelly, whom he suggested did not receive a condolence call from President Barack Obama. The president ought to have read the eulogy Kelly delivered for two other Marines four days after his son was killed in Afghanistan. After asking the officer who introduced him, “Please don’t mention my son,” he talked passionately — and sometimes angrily — about the sacrifices of the military. He never mentioned his son, later explaining to the Washington Post, “The death of my boy simply cannot be made to seem any more tragic than the others.”
Such grace and dignity in the face of unimaginable loss is the trademark of Gold Star families. It was on display in the days after the Niger attack when the families of the four men spoke with pride about their loved ones.
“I know if you could ask him, he’d be glad that it was him,” said Staff Sgt. Wright’s brother. “He’d be glad he’s the one that went so somebody else’s son could come home.”
Those words, and not Trump’s, ought to be what we remember.
FROM AN EDITORIAL IN THE WASHINGTON POST