Two U.S. soldiers were made honorary Green Berets this week for their actions during the deadly ambush near the Niger-Mali border on Oct. 4, 2017, which took the lives of four Americans and five Nigeriens.
Sgt. 1st Class Jeremiah Johnson, 39, and Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, were killed when the patrol they were on as support troops for 3rd Special Forces Group out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was ambushed by roughly 100 militants aligned with Islamic State in the Greater Sahara.
ABC News reporter James Gordon Meek first tweeted about the ceremony to name both soldiers honorary Green Berets on Tuesday.
“SFC Jeremiah Johnson and SGT LaDavid Johnson were inducted into the special forces regiment as honorary Green Berets in a small, private ceremony held for their families,” an Army Special Operations Command spokesman said in an email to Army Times.
The families were presented with certificates stating the soldiers were inducted into the special forces group as honorary Green Berets as well as a shadow box with the honorary headgear.
The presentation was in recognition of the valiant actions of the soldiers during the events in Niger during their service with U.S. Army Special Forces, the spokesman added.
Jeremiah Johnson was a chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear specialist, while La David Johnson was a wheeled vehicle mechanic.
Militants ambushed their convoy along Niger’s western border with Mali near the village of Tongo Tongo.
Fallout after the attack prompted public scrutiny, for a time, on U.S. counterterrorism missions and objectives in Africa, as well as the resources, like air support, available to Americans operating on the continent.
Family of the fallen U.S. soldiers criticized how U.S. Africa Command handled the investigation into the ambush, and especially the blame placed on the Green Beret captain on the ground who had asked not to continue the mission prior to the attack, according to the redacted investigation.
After the ambush, valor awards were handed out. Jeremiah Johnson was awarded the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, and La David Johnson was awarded the Silver Star. The two Green Berets who were also killed, Staff Sgt. Bryan C. Black, 35, and Staff Sgt. Dustin Wright, 29, were awarded valor medals, as well.
Jeremiah Johnson, Black and Wright were outside the same vehicle fighting off militants together as the ambush unfolded. The decision was made to pull back to avoid being flanked by the larger enemy force, but Black was shot and killed as the truck drove slowly forward.
Wright and Johnson fought on, remaining with Black’s body and unable to reenter their vehicle.
As the enemy encroached onto their position, they were forced to bound away by foot. During the maneuver, Johnson was shot and fell. Wright returned and fought over the body of his comrade until succumbing to his own wounds.
Elsewhere, La David Johnson had been separated from the larger U.S. team alongside two Nigerien partners when they were unable to reenter their vehicle due to concentrated enemy fire.
Dozens of militants pursued the lone American and the two Nigeriens as they evaded together by foot through open desert.
Both Nigeriens were killed during the run, according to a collection of medical forensics, terrain analysis and other evidence cited in the investigation.
La David Johnson, who had been pursued by a vehicle-mounted DShK machine gun, made his final stand under a single thorny tree — the only cover in the area.
Aside from La David Johnson and Jeremiah Johnson, only 10 people have been made honorary members of the Special Forces Regiment, Task and Purpose reported.