Sgt. La David Johnson was one of the four American servicemen killed in an ambush in Niger. Recently, the New York Times published a piece on Johnson’s background, and here are some of the highlights:

He Was the Wheelie King

Johnson was often seen riding around Miami on his BMX bike, usually on the rear wheel only. In fact, he was so good at popping a wheelie that he eventually took the front wheel off entirely, since he didn’t need it. Despite living in a high-crime area, he could always be seen biking around with an upbeat and positive attitude.

He Loved to Tinker

“He would always mess with the screwdrivers and the pliers. The cars and trucks that my grandmother used to buy him, he would take them apart and put them back together,” his sister, Torneisha Ghent, recalled. This early talent for tinkering helped him to pursue a military career, and he became a sergeant within three years.

He Was an Unofficial Barber

Johnson taught himself how to cut hair using YouTube videos, until he was the unofficial barber for his Special Forces battalion.

“He would cut all the Africans’ hair. He had a little set up in his tent. He bought a bicycle and he took the wheel off of it and was riding in Africa with one tire,” said Staff Sgt. Dennis Bohler, who was close to Johnson after bonding with him over their shared background. They were both from Miami.

He Was a Mentor and Community Leader

Johnson was part of a mentoring program for young boys in his neighborhood called 5000 Role Models of Excellence Project and often threw himself into helping others in the community. He would often cook for his family and was an active church-goer.

“He always loved to have fun, laugh and joke around, and help others,” said Isaac Hodgeson, who was also in the mentoring program.

He Met His Wife When They Were Six

Johnson and his wife, Myeshia, were the definition of childhood sweethearts. They met at age six, and he had her name tattooed across his chest. The two of them would often enjoy Sunday dinners with Sergeant Bohler and his wife, and both wives found out that they were pregnant around the same time. They both had girls that were due only a few days apart, and the couples continued to stay close, celebrate with each other, and support each other.