John Meyer was recently contacted by JW Johnson. JW was an Instructor at HK in the 1990’s when John was Vice President of HK’s International Training Division. JW was part of a team of Instructors and an era that many people still talk about.
In August of 2017 we had a reunion of many of the HK personnel that were a part of that era. JW could not attend because his son, Jeremiah, who was in the Army, was deploying that weekend from Ft. Bragg to Niger, Africa. October 4, 2017, Jeremiah was one of the soldiers that was ambushed and killed in an operation. A group of us went to his funeral in Fayetteville, NC. As you can imagine there were still many questions that were unanswered and difficult for the family.
Since then, JW has been on a quest for information about Jeremiah and the situation that led to his death.
Below is an email and pictures that JW sent to me outlining his research on the Jeremiah and the operation on October 4, 2017. HW has requested that we share Jeremiah’s story. This will allow the readers to know and understand what a true warrior and hero Jeremiah is.
This is an emotional read.
The events of 4 October of 2017 took away a great part of what was left of my world. Not many people knew what had happened before Jeremiah’s death.
90% of our family lives here in East Tennessee. All within 30 miles of each other.
My father was undergoing cancer treatments, even though he was terminal. He said if his treatments help find a cure, it was worthwhile. He also stated he wanted to stay with my mother as long as he could.
Jo-Anne and I always visited with my parents twice a week. I called once a week to speak with both parents. At one call my father ask that I call back , mom was busy.
I never got to speak with her, a heart attack took her 30 minutes after I spoke with my father.
30 days later, we buried my brother-in-law. He was a close friend, more as a brother.
Four months later, cancer got the best of my father. I think it was more of not having mom around. Dad die of the cancer, but due to a infection his body could not fight because of the kemo and his immune system.
I had retired about a year prior to all of this. I tore my knee several times. Had 5 surgeries with two knee replacements. 3 weeks after my father’s death I became very sick. After days of testing there was an infection in my prosthesis and was moving into the bloodstream. Three hours after finding out about the infection I was in surgery removing the knee prosthesis and undergoing treatment for the infection. I spent 6 months in the bed with two IV’s trying to stop the infection.
The bone just above the knee and below was cut away, therefore I could not walk.
The infection that took my father is what nearly took me.
After clearing the infection, I received my third knee. In all to date, nine surgeries on the same leg.
Not complaining, just giving you where my mind was just prior to receiving the word about Jeremiah. His death was eight months after my father.
The best information I have about the ambush in Niger took 3 years to discover.
Information was hard to obtain from the Army. As you know, it is not what you know, but who you know. The most help I received was from the Warfare Center .
By luck I knew someone who worked there, and should not mention his name in case the wrong person knows.
ODA 3212 , The team Jeremiah was attached to, was assigned a mission to backup the main team to capture or kill a high value target with ISIS.
The mission was canceled due to weather. At that point, drones, support aircraft, a Marine detachment, medical support, satellite and local friendly forces received messages to stand down.
Within hours of the cancellation, the team was directed to investigate another site that could be the location of the target command was looking for.
Capt Perozeni, team commander, pushed back several times not to take the mission. His decision to me was sound. No support of any kind was available. Drones needed refueling, same with air support, or ground forces. Most support of any kind was 300 miles from the teams position.
The team was ordered to go.
At the village of Tongo-Tongo the team stopped to gather information and water.
The team medic Brian Black gave medical aid to some the villagers.
I believe the team spent 30 minutes on this stop. Apparently Isis members were tracking their movements since the original mission. The stop in Tongo-Tongo gave the opportunity to gather enough personnel (approximately 125) to set up an attack.
There is correct documentation of the fight on social media.
I have attached a written narrative of Jeremiah’s actions. This was documented from the video of his helmet camera by the investigation.
The narrative for his Bronze Star w/ valor is pretty accurate. In that narrative it was stated that Jeremiah assisted Dustin Wright to recover Brian Black. That was not correct. After viewing the video it was clear Jeremiah exposed himself from cover after being wounded to aid Brian.
The Army’s investigation was tainted. Some of the information given by the investigation was “filled in” with possibilities.
Blame was placed on the team. Insults by command level pointing fingers that the team was not indicative of a SF team. Makes me wonder why everyone was wearing a Green Beret except Jeremiah and La David Johnson . Who both received Silver Stars and presented an Honorary status of Green Beret.
If this team was not qualified, why was 3212 assigned a dangerous mission?
An 11 man team with NO support encountered by 125 heavily armed force.
Five Silver Stars, three Bronze Stars w/ valor presented to a rogue team ?
How does that fit into a under trained SF Team …
Durning the past years I received bits and pieces of the heroism Jeremiah displayed during the ambush in Tongo Tongo . Many ranking officers in the special forces community seemed to be tight lipped about the entire mission and performance of the men in that fight. I contacted as many General grade officers and decorated veterans as I could to help me find answers, and to up-grade the valor awards of those deserving who are attached to ODA 3212.
My congress representative and Senator were involved along with the representative from Ft. Bragg, NC. My comments on the support given is best left with me at less mentioning their involvement. I will speak highly of Congressman Richard Hudson from N.C. He never stopped helping and sat with commanding Generals demanding a review of the awards issued.
I received some information that General Mattis wanted a full investigation due to the first one conducted by SF. I guess you can investigate yourself.
General Beaudette submitted a package for Jeremiah to receive the Green Beret . It was a unanimous decision by the overseeing board. July of 2020 at Ft. Bragg we received his Beret along with documentation from the Kennedy Warfare Center of his and La-David Johnson acceptances as Honorary Green Berets.
It is my understanding only three active military members have received that honor. Bill Donovan, who was OSS during WW ll then trained the first members of the Green Berets.
The second and third persons who were active duty is Jeremiah and La-David.
In January of 2020 just prior to the ceremony for the green beret, I contacted one of the team members who was with Jeremiah. I ask if someone had recovered his sidearm. I knew it was a Glock .40 and asked if this was his personal weapon or issued. If personal, how can it be returned ? I was assured no equipment has or was recovered. As you know John, most times victims are stripped of all gear and clothing as was the case for the 4 that fell . I do not know why I had the feeling equipment had been recovered.
When we arrived at Bragg during July of 2020, we were escorted to one of the team members home. Six of the 11 who fought that day in Africa was there. In all, approximately 30 people including Hank and Michelle Black , father and widow of Brian Black attended the gathering.
Brent Bartels (team member) offered a toast to the fallen. After, he explained that I had called him in January asking about Jeremiah’s sidearm. He said that five hours before I called in they had just finished verifying equipment that was recovered by French Commandos during a raid of Isis members that were involved in the ambush.
That equipment included Jeremiah’s .40 Glock. He continued on saying that how everyone was shocked I had any ideal things were recovered. I was presented with Jeremiah’s holster, which was one of the items recovered.
It was on the leg of one who was dispatched. ( pictures attached of the holster ) .
I had to give my word no one was to know I received his holster. ( not to convey that holster to ant Army officials). The team also gave me a beret, from the team, not from the command level. They said Jeremiah trained with us, fought with us and died with us, he is one of us.
I also received the letter from the French ( pictured, printed on a black plate) spent rounds, glass and sand from where Jeremiah fought. Also a Silver Star, explaining Gen. Beaudette will speak with me about the Silver Star.
I was overcome, not from sorrow, from the admiration the team gave to Jeremiah.
During the first of October 2020 I met with General Beaudette. One of his first questions was if I was given Jeremiah’s holster. I got nervous because I gave my word not to tell anyone about receiving the holster. I stared to lie, but I told the truth .
Just as a side note, the holster is definitely his. Jeremiah was the only team member who was left handed. Also the Velcro pad on the back was soaked with dry blood. Not Jeremiah’s, it belonged to the “skinny” who was wearing it.
Beaudette told me he was the one who authorized giving me the holster. He also wanted to explain a few things. With the equipment that was recovered, the most important was Jeremiah’s actual pro cam. The sims card had 46 minutes of the fight.
The audio and visual recorded was perfectly clear. He ask me to stop requesting an up-grade from the Bronze Star with valor. His words were simple. He will receive the Silver Star. After all the agencies with initials viewed the recording, the Army finally saw exactly what Jeremiah accomplished.
The families of the fallen were offered the opportunity to watch the video. I elected not to. I saw no reason why I should. What father wants to see his Son die ?
I got word Jeremiah’s mother, step-father and sister watched it. Apparently his mother fainted during the viewing and is still seeing a counselor.
During this period the only thing I knew about the video is what Special Forces said about his performance. The most intriguing was from General Townshend, Marine 4 Star over the African theater. He wrote a letter to he joint chiefs of staff, along to the secretary of defense. Part of that letter said he is the warrior every command wants.
(Quote) “He fights like a demon, even after initially wounded he continued to fight until mortally wounded. On his back with seconds to live, he continued to fight until his last breath “ ( end quote).
Some short time after his mother and company viewed the video I started receiving text from Jeremiah’s close friends and team members inquiring if I was “ok” and needed to talk. I had no ideal what was being asked. I was advised to call his mother. I thought she had some sort of attack while watching the video. I never received a response from her or her husband.
I did find out why people were concerned about me. Prior to his death he left a message for his daughters and me. His sister typed his last words and placed them on social media. After finding out about this, John, I cried for three hours. Still not knowing what was said.
Crying because his final words was given to the world by someone who did not have the right to do so, and no one never told his father. Jo-Anne drove me to the doctor to get a shot that would suppress my emotions. Not sure what she and Doc discussed, but it knocked me out for 12 hours. I think Jo-Anne enjoyed the quiet. ( hahahah)
This past February Benjamin and I decided to see the video, very reluctantly. We figured if he left a message, he knew we would get it. Also if he made it home he would have told us “watch this shit” .
After viewing, we both agreed it was the best thing we could have done. I got peace. Not closure, I do not know what that is. I did get a tremendous amount of peace.
He was a warrior, he was in his element. He was full of laughter during the fight. He made jokes, at the same time he directed fire, exposed enemy positions. He prevented the enemy from flanking their position. Exposed himself to enemy fire to save his team members. Communicate continually with other team members of their position, ammunition count and injuries. At one point he told command element Black was down. Wright had sustained wounds and he ( Jeremiah) currently was hit seven times with facial injuries due to exploding glass. He stated they would hold, but could not last much longer.
Two minutes prior to his death, he told his daughters he loved them ( both by name)
He said “dad , I love ya, I love ya till Valhalla.” The message was actually motivating. His voice did not crack or show any fear. It was calm and like he was ok with what was going to happen. The last of the recording was him telling Wright, “let’s do this brother “. Both were killed seconds apart. It took 13 rounds to stop him.
March of this year we were informed of the following.
On May 25th at Ft. Bragg a new building that the team has moved to, will be dedicated Johnson Hall. A bronze plaque will bear his valor at the entrance of the building . The foyer will have a black and white mural of him and team members standing in front of a helicopter .
June 10th will be the ceremony to receive the Silver Star and his induction into the Army Hall of Fame. ( the Silver Star has been approved and send you a copy.)
We are honored beyond words. SF has done so much to honor Jeremiah. They have tried to help us with this loss. We have become close friends with some of 3212’s members. It helps us to know they care, as we are glad they survived that day.
I do not know how to really thank you . When you and the old crew came to his service, you have no ideal how much it meant to us.
It will never be enough to say, I will never forget how you showed so much respect for us and Jeremiah’s family. I believe the best I could do is to give you what Jeremiah did and how others respected him. He would want me to tell the guys at HK.
He loved his short time there, as did I.
If I can ever help, please reach out. Thank you John, for everything.