In the final moments of his life, Sgt. La David Johnson was alone, evading overwhelming militant fire in Niger last October, as he ran the length of five football fields to reach the only cover in the area: a single thorny tree.
The last two friendly forces with Johnson had been killed minutes before; two Nigerien soldiers who had stayed with Johnson as their eight-vehicle convoy was ambushed by scores of enemy fighters.
Each of the eight vehicles — three U.S. vehicles and five Nigerien vehicles ― became separated from each other within minutes, in a kill zone that was thousands of yards long.
Under heavy enemy fire, the vehicles had stopped, and U.S. and Nigerien forces exited to return fire.