Loved ones honor fallen army sergeant at wake in Cooper City

COOPER CITY, FLA. (WSVN) - Family and friends are saying their final goodbyes at a viewing for a South Florida man who bravely fought for our country.

An American flag was draped over U.S. Army Sgt. La David Johnson’s casket as he was honored at his wake.

Many loved ones arrived to the viewing, which began around 5 p.m., Friday. “Reality just hit me, and it was like, he’s really gone, and I’m not going to ever have my brother anymore,” said Johnson’s sister, Terkiya McGriff.

“This is going to be like almost our last time seeing him,” said another sister, Terkema McGriff. “It’s just a sad day.”

Law enforcement escorted the body to Christ the Rock Community Church in Cooper City.

His family and friends honored and remembered Johnson inside with a special service, and some wore custom shirts with the words “In Arms of an Angel” printed on them.

“As a veteran, all veterans should be compelled to be here,” said veteran Mick Pacheco. “When one of our soldiers fall, it hurts everybody. It’s just one of those things that you can’t shake off.”

Johnson’s father spoke with 7News this week about the impact his son has made on those he knew. “He was a role model,” said Johnson’s father, Terrance McGriff. “He meant a lot. My other kids looked up to him.”

“Perfect big brother that anyone could ever ask for,” said Ghent.

Johnson was given the name “Wheelie King” for his impressive bike tricks. He’s posted multiple videos of him riding on only one wheel through his neighborhood.

He met his wife, Myeshia, in his hometown and married her months after he joined the military in 2014. Johnson’s wife is now six months pregnant with their third child.

Johnson’s body arrived at Miami International Airport, Tuesday afternoon, where Myeshia had a moment to grieve.

“Last call I would ever want to get,” McGriff said. “I wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy.”

His body was found two days after an ambush by ISIS in Niger, on Oct. 4. Johnson was one of four soldiers killed.

Ghent said she spoke with her brother for the last time just one month ago.

“He was telling me he loved me, and I was telling him I love him,” Ghent said. “I said, ‘You know, be careful’ and not knowing that that was the last that I was actually going to talk to my brother. I’m in peace because the last things we said to each other was ‘I love you.'”

The service will run until about 8 p.m., Friday. On Saturday, the family will lay his body to rest after the funeral service.

Florida Gov. Rick Scott has ordered that all flags should be lowered to half-staff to honor Johnson.

As for the investigation into the Oct. 4 deaths of Johnson and the other Green Berets in Niger, the FBI announced it will be joining the Department of Defense to investigate the ambush.

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