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Mourners pay respects to fallen Fort Bragg soldiers

By CHICK JACOBS AND NANCY MCCLEARY | The Fayetteville Observer, N.C. | Published: October 17, 2017

FAYETTEVILLE, N.C. (Tribune News Service) — About 500 people lined both sides of Ramsey Street on Monday as the bodies of of Staff Sgt. Bryan Black and Staff Sgt. Jeremiah W. Johnson arrived at Jernigan-Warren Funeral Home.

Black, 35, of Puyallup, Washington, and Johnson, 39, of Springboro, Ohio, were assigned to the 3rd Special Forces Group at Fort Bragg, according to Army Special Operations Command. They were part of a 12-man team operating in the African country of Niger on Oct. 4, when they were attacked by as many as 50 enemy fighters, according to the U.S. Department of Defense.

"We pay honor and respect to the troopers," said James Van Galder, 69, who spent 34 combined years in the Army and Air Force and is now a member of the Patriot Guard, a volunteer group that honors fallen soldiers, and serves on the Cumberland County Veterans Council.

The bodies were escorted in separate motorcades from Raleigh-Durham International Airport, arriving at the funeral home about 90 minutes apart. The motorcades traveled slowly on Ramsey Street from Interstate 295 as blue lights from the Cumberland County Sheriff's Office and the N.C. Highway Patrol vehicles preceded the black hearses carrying the bodies.

Members of the Fayetteville and Fort Bragg fire departments stood by with trucks, activating red lights to welcome the motorcades as they approached.

Black's body was the first to arrive about 5:30 p.m.

The crowd was smaller, but traffic was heavy in the area.

As the motorcade approached, Fayetteville Police Department officers stopped traffic.

And for a few moments, there was complete silence, broken only by the sound of sirens from the vehicles.

Between the arrivals, the number of people swelled.

Among them were soldiers in uniform, some with their families. There were clean-cut and grizzled veterans, some wearing motorcycle jackets, others in regular attire. All snapped to attention and saluted as the hearses passed.

Monica Hadwin drove from Angier, bringing her son, Jacob, 16, and his friend, Richard Rickard, 15, to pay their respects, she said. Both are in the JROTC program at Central Harnett High School, as is Johnson's daughter Elisa.

"I feel like we're showing a sign of respect to Elisa and her family," Rickard said.

Jacob Hadwin agreed.

"The JROTC is a family," he said. "I never met him (Sgt. Johnson), but I consider him family."

Barbara Culbreth, 83, of Fayetteville, was there "because anything to do with veterans is my heart."

Culbreth, a member of Rolling Thunder and a life member of Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 670 in Fayetteville, is the widow of an 82nd Airborne soldier, the mother of a U.S. Navy veteran who died six years ago and the sister of a soldier who was killed in World War II.

Rolling Thunder is an organization that serves and pays homage to U.S. military men and women in uniform, and veterans.

Black's family plans to hold a wake for him Tuesdayat the funeral home, beginning at 6 p.m. A service is planned at Northwood Temple Church, where Black and his family worshiped. The service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Wednesday. Black will be buried at Arlington National Cemetery later this month.

Two other 3rd Special Forces Group soldiers also were killed in the attack.

They were Staff Sgt. Dustin M. Wright, 29, of Lyons, Georgia, and Sgt. La David Johnson, 25, of Miami Gardens, Florida.

cjacobs@fayobserver.com
nmccleary@fayobserver.com

©2017 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)
Visit The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.) at www.fayobserver.com
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Staff Sgts. Jeremiah W. Johnson and Bryan C. Black.

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