State lowers flags to honor fallen Washington soldier

The soldier killed in an ambush in Niger was one of seven


MICHAEL LINDER | The Daily Evergreen

The Pullman public library displayed the American flag at half-staff in honor of an army soldier who was killed in Niger.

JESSICA ZHOU, Evergreen assistant news editor

Outside of Neill Public Library and across the state, flags flew half-staff in remembrance of a Puyallup Green Beret, who died earlier this month in an ambush that killed him and three other soldiers in Niger.

After graduating from Central Washington University with a degree in business and working at a ski resort, Brian Black, 35, joined the Army in 2009 and served as a Special Forces medical sergeant. He was a decorated soldier based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina.

Friends and family who gathered in Northwood Temple Church in Fayetteville, North Carolina, remembered him as a leader among fellow soldiers, a loved father and husband, and a jack-of-all-trades who strove to be a master of all.

After his brother won a trophy at a chess tournament, but he didn’t, he was so frustrated that he spent a summer studying and learning the intricate game, his obituary read. Two years later, he ranked second place among sixth-grade chess players across the country.

Even when working in Niger, Black garnered a bit of celebrity for using an English-to-Hausa dictionary to learn the local dialect and speak with soldiers as well as villagers, who would often wait for him or call out his name when soldiers walked by, according to his obituary.

The ambush, which occurred during a patrol near the Niger-Mali border, was the deadliest attack that soldiers deployed from Fort Bragg, where Black was based, had faced since July 14, 2010, when seven soldiers were killed in Afghanistan in less than 24 hours.

Leading senators such as Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina said they were unaware of U.S. presence in Niger until they found out through the news.

When talking to reporters, Arizona Senator John McCain alluded to a subpoena and said the administration was not forthcoming about how troops were able to be ambushed.

His comments reflect the frustration of critics asking Trump to provide more details surrounding the circumstances that left four Americans dead and two wounded, the deadliest combat mission since he entered office.

For Black’s wife Michelle, supporting her sons is the biggest priority, though she eventually wants to know the details surrounding her husband’s death. She told Fox News she is receiving guidance from the military on the ongoing investigation, but not following daily reports.

“Very grateful that he called and he spoke to the kids,” she said of her condolence call from President Donald Trump. This contrasts with the experience of Myeshia Johnson, the widow Sgt. La David Johnson, who said Trump did not remember her husband’s name and said he “knew what he signed up for.” Trump has disputed the widow’s account, maintaining on Twitter he “spoke his name from beginning, without hesitation!”

Government officials recognized the Washington native’s service. Gov. Jay Inslee directed all state agencies to fly state and country flags at half-staff yesterday.

“In the days, months, and years to come, we will keep Sgt. Black’s family and friends in our hearts and work to honor his memory,” said U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, of Black’s home district. “May his service and sacrifice for our country inspire all of us to give back in a way that would make him proud.”