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Johnson's father . . . says that while neither he nor his family begrudge

Lynch her celebrity or disability payments, he believes that his daughter

should get her due, and it is more than a 30 percent disability benefit.

Photo left: Spc. Shoshana Johnson  escorted to a transport plane at an air base in Iraq.



Life After Captivity: Shoshana Johnson  Marches On

Excerpts from Interview by Abigail Pesta


21 December 2011

As the troops pull out of Iraq, Shoshana Johnson, the former prisoner of war taken captive along with Jessica Lynch, describes the battles she still faces. Shoshana Johnson joined the Army with dreams of becoming a chef. Her plan: to cook for soldiers and earn some money for culinary school. Five years later, she found herself lying on the ground in Iraq, struggling to protect her head as a group of Iraqi men kicked her repeatedly in the stomach, face, and bullet-torn legs. She remembers their triumphant shouts.

It was the start of the war, in March 2003, and her unit was under attack after making a wrong turn into the city of Nasiriyah. A 30-year-old mother of a toddler at the time, Johnson became a prisoner of war, along with four men from her unit. Two women—Jessica Lynch and Lori Piestewa—were captured separately. A badly injured Lynch was rescued by U.S. forces nine days later. Piestewa didn’t survive. Johnson and the men were rescued along with two helicopter pilots after 22 days.

It was an ordeal that Johnson, now living in her hometown of El Paso, Texas, still struggles to put behind her, while she moves forward with her life. As the U.S. troops pull out of Iraq, we checked in.

You were held hostage in various jails and homes around Baghdad, kept apart from the men. Did you think you would get out alive?

I went back and forth. Some days I would think, I’m going home. Then I’d hear a bomb blast or gunfire really close. The U.S. was bombing the daylights out of Baghdad. One time a bomb shook the house—there was a deafening boom, and I thought we would die. I could hear the guys through the walls, and that helped. We would all call out to each other, checking in. “Joe, are you OK?” “Patrick, are you OK?” Those 22 days were hard—I don’t know how people survived for eight or nine years in captivity in Vietnam. You’re accustomed to your freedom. You have to rely on someone just to take you to the bathroom.

How did you survive with bullet wounds to your legs?

The bullets had gone through and through, and at the time of the ambush, with all the adrenaline, I didn’t really feel the shots at all—just a burning sensation. Later, in captivity, I felt it. The guards actually cleaned me up, and brought me to a hospital to operate. They put me under with a general anesthesia.

So the guards treated you decently?

Some of the guards were helpful, as long as you weren’t combative. They gave one guy, Patrick, a really hard time, because he was singing that Toby Keith song, the one that goes, “Don’t mess with the U.S. of A. We’ll put a boot in your ass.” They beat him up, and took his wedding ring. That really made him mad. I would shout at them to just leave him alone. Looking back, I realize there were moments when I was just arrogant. One day they brought me this breakfast, this mush. I was like, I’m not eating it. They could have stopped bringing me any food at all.

"I have certain triggers, like when I see war scenes on TV—the military, uniforms, Iraq. If I watch that, I'll have a flashback later." . . .

You’ve struggled with posttraumatic stress disorder over the years. How are you doing now?

I go to therapy on a regular basis, and I’m learning coping mechanisms. I have certain triggers, like when I see war scenes on TV—the military, uniforms, Iraq. If I watch that, I’ll have a flashback later. It feels like I’m living through the experience all over again. The other night NBC was interviewing Iraqi generals. The uniforms, the men in their bushy mustaches…I found myself looking at them closely, to see if one of them was one of my guards. Then I told myself, turn it off. Everyone keeps on talking about that show Homeland—about a POW who comes home and people think he’s a terrorist. I’ll never watch that.

The therapy has helped me cope, day to day. I’m getting better; I don’t have as many nightmares. Part of my problem was that I had a lot of guilt. I felt guilty for being here when others died. I felt like I could have stopped all this from happening. A day before the attack, I had a bad feeling in my stomach—I just felt like something bad was going to happen. I felt like I should have said something. Of course, I could not have stopped that convoy from moving forward by telling a commander I had a bad feeling. I was the cook. What’s he going to say? “Stop the convoy. The cook isn’t feeling it. Let’s just stop right now.” I don’t think so.

Was it hard for you to admit that you had PTSD?

Yes, the way it is in the military, you’re supposed to suck it up, keep going. But it’s important to get help. A couple weeks ago, a soldier shot a woman here. He had done a couple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. We had another shooting last year. It’s a real issue. I know the VA and the military are shorthanded on psychiatrists.

The military didn’t want to concede at first that you had PTSD, correct?

Yes, the doctors diagnosed it and were treating me for it. But when I was getting medically dismissed, the military didn’t want to acknowledge that I still had it. I needed them to say it. It became very important to me. Eventually they did—but it took a while.

What are you up to now?

I finished my associate’s degree in culinary arts at El Paso Community College this past spring. Now I’ve started studying for a bachelor’s degree in health sciences and nutrition at the University of Texas. I’m not where I thought I’d be at 38, but I’m grateful to be here.

How are you doing physically?

I was shot in both legs, so there’s quite a bit of damage: nerve damage, scar tissue. I have arthritis in my back and spine. I go to physical therapy still. But I’m fortunate. A lot of young men and women have prosthetic limbs. I can even dress up in heels every now and then.

How do you feel about the troops coming home from Iraq?

I’m very happy to see them coming home, closing that chapter. I’m sure some of them will have to deal with the mental aspects for some time to come. Some of us leave Iraq physically, but not mentally.

You wrote a memoir, I’m Still Standing, a couple years ago, saying you wanted to set the record straight. What was it that you wanted to clear up?

I had so many people tell me what they thought happened to me over there, I decided to tell them myself. A lot of people can accept that a man goes to war and does what is necessary, but they have a hard time accepting that a woman can. They’ll say, “But you didn’t see any action.” Well, I have bullet holes in my legs. I fired my weapon. I’ve talked to other military females who have said the same thing: people don’t believe they’re in the middle of the action. Basically I did the book when I felt I could get a handle on going back and reliving it all. When the book came out, there was some backlash. I talked to Jessica Lynch about it and she said, “It doesn’t matter—we know what happened.”

Source: TheDailyBeast

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I'm Still Standing

From Captive U.S. Soldier to Free Citizen—My Journey Home

By Shoshana Johnson with M. L. Doyle

 In March of 2003, Operation Iraqi Freedom was only days old when world headlines were rocked by the attack on a U.S. army convoy in Iraq. On March 23rd, during the early march to Baghdad, Shoshana Johnson was wounded in an ambush of her convoy in the city of an-Nasiriyah and taken as a prisoner of war. Several soldiers were killed and five others were taken prisoner. While Jessica Lynch became the face associated with the capture, Shoshana was held for several more weeks. After the headline-making ambush, capture, and rescue, Shoshana returned to the U.S., receiving numerous awards for her valor, including the Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, and Prisoner of War Medal. In I’m Still Standing Shoshana writes for the first time about her experience as a prisoner of war, revealing emotions and frustrations that are personal as well as political. As a speaker, Shoshana’s warmth and poise have earned her admirers all over the world. I’m Still Standing reveals the true source of courage behind the story, the full story she couldn’t share when she last appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and Larry King Live

Johnson gained national attention as America's first black female prisoner of war. She was in the 507th Maintenance Company convoy ambushed on March 23, 2003, in Nasiriyah, and captured with five other soldiers including Jessica Lynch. One might call Johnson's presence in a firefight a compound accident. She was a cook who had enlisted in 1998 hoping to earn money for her education and perhaps meet a nice guy, and was a cook with the 507th, which existed to maintain Patriot missiles. But she was sent with the convoy, and the bullets Johnson took in both ankles did not ask for her military occupational specialty. Though objectively treated well enough by her Iraqi captors, she was wounded, female, and black: three reasons for being afraid. Rescued three weeks later in a daring raid, Johnson emerged with a Bronze Star, a case of post-traumatic stress disorder, and an unwanted celebrity status sufficiently resented by the system that she left the army. Johnson endured her captivity with courage and emerged with honor. With the help of former army reservist Doyle, she vividly, simply, and unpretentiously tells her tale.—Publishers Weekly

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The Real World We Live In!

[Double Standards for Shoshana Johnson]

By Christine Phillip Staff Writer


Army Spec. Shoshana Johnson, the African American woman who was held prisoner of war in the U.S. invasion of Iraq, was looking forward to a quiet discharge from the Army in a few days. Battle scarred and weary, she has said not a word as her fellow POW comrade in arms Jessica Lynch cashes in with book and movie deals and a celebrity status in the media.

But it is the Army that is forcing Johnson to break her peace. A few days ago, military brass informed her that she would receive a 30 percent disability benefit for her injuries. Lynch, who is White, was discharged in August and will receive an 80 percent disability benefit. The difference amounts to $600 or $700 a month in payments, and that is causing Johnson and her family to speak out. They are so troubled by what they see as a "double standard," that they have enlisted Rev. Jesse Jackson to help make their case to the news media.

Jackson, who plans to plead Johnson's cause with the White House, the Pentagon and members of Congress, says the payment smacks a double standard and racism. "Here's a case of two women, same [unit], same war; everything about their service commitment and their risk is equal. . . . Yet there's an enormous contrast between how the military has handled these two cases," Jackson told The Washington Post.

Johnson's father, Claude Johnson, himself an Army veteran, says that while neither he nor his family begrudge Lynch her celebrity or disability payments, he believes that his daughter should get her due, and it is more than a 30 percent disability benefit. For its part, the Army, in denying charges of double standard, said Friday that claims are awarded to soldiers according to their injuries.

Johnson, 30, the mother of a 3-year-old daughter, was held captive for 22 days, when her unit stumbled into an ambush in southern Iraq last March. Eleven soldiers were killed, and six, including Lynch and Johnson, were taken prisoners. Johnson was shot in both legs and is still traumatized by her war experience. In addition to walking with a limp, she suffers from bouts of depression.

So I ask that you forward this email on to all and inform others of this latest racial attack. Forget about the destroying of stamps, forget about Kobe, forget about Michael Jordan getting fired and fight for the rights of this strong Black Woman!!! Email --

Jennette McNear, Payroll Administrator
The Clark Construction Group, Inc.
301-272-8409 -- Phone
301-272-8413 -- Fax

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Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson, 30, El Paso, Texas

Her name means “rose” in Hebrew, the inspiration of an aunt who once worked as a nurse in Brooklyn. But her family is Panamanian-American, and although she grew up in an Army family, she never expected to find herself on the front lines. She is fun-loving, her younger sister Nikki says: outgoing, independent and trustworthy—definitely not the kind of person who “stays in front of the TV forever and a day.”

Shoshana’s dream was to be a chef, but culinary school costs money, and Army cook was close enough. And it seemed safe enough, too. But early on the morning of March 23, her father, Claude, was flipping through the channels looking for a cartoon show for Johnson’s 2-year-old daughter, Janelle. He happened to catch a newscast on the Spanish-language network Telemundo. “They said five Americans had been captured in Iraq,” he says. “I caught ‘one African-American female, 30 years old, from the 507th.’ Her name was Shana. I said, ‘It’s got to be her’.”

It was. Now her large extended family, including more than a dozen cousins, are watching and waiting. Inspired by the relatives of Elizabeth Smart, whose savvy handling of the press helped lead to the return of a 15-year-old kidnapped Utah girl, Shoshana’s relations have appeared all over television and in the newspapers, publicly praying for her release

“I realized media attention is the thing that brought that girl home,” says Shoshana’s aunt Margaret Thorne-Henderson, who has appeared on the “Today” show. “We just want her to be treated humanely,” Nikki told NEWSWEEK, “and to return home swiftly and safely.”

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"We Were A Hot Potato" - Spc. Shoshana Johnson

By David Bennallack - KFOX News Director


"We got turned around and then got lost and we rolled into Nasiriyah before it was secure and when we rolled in there was an ambush waiting for us," that's the beginning of a story of courage and survival for El Paso native Shoshana Johnson.

When part of the 507th Maintenance Company rolled into Nasiriyah, Iraq just before dawn on March 23rd, the unit was met with gunfire from every side. 19 507th soldiers were facing an all-out assault, and had little to fight back with. Some of the Ft. Bliss soldiers died where they fell. Shoshana Johnson dove under her truck and was shot - wounded in both ankles, perhaps by the same bullet. Near Johnson were Sgt. James Riley, Specialist Edgar Hernandez, and Specialist Joseph Hudson.

For 15 minutes the battle raged. Then "All our weapons jammed, failed, and people were coming out of the houses with weapons," said Johnson. "And then we just got overwhelmed."

Sgt. James Riley ordered the surrender. The Ft. Bliss Five threw down the weapons and Iraqis pounded on them, kicking and hitting them with sticks. Not Johnson. They opened her chemical weapons suit "and noticed I was a female," she said. Then they treated her "very well. I don't know why." Next stop a Baghdad prison. Where the videotape we all saw on TV was apparently made. Johnson said her interrogators asked her about the locations of American divisions. 

"When they finally got that I was only a cook, they started asking me where the food came from, if it was coming from Kuwait," she said, smiling.

Iraqi doctors performed surgery three times on her wounded ankles. "More than once, a doctor said that they wanted to take good care of me to show that the Iraqi people had humanity," Johnson said. 

Asked what she thought of that now, she says "I appreciate the care that I was given. But I also know that there was a reason behind it. They didn't give me care just for the humanity of it."

As the coalition forces moved closer to Baghdad, the prisoners were moved.

A half dozen times in the last week. Each time there were new guards. "We were a hot potato," says Johnson "It was getting to the point where I believed they were going to kill us." And when the U.S. Marines suddenly knocked down the door, there was another moment of concern. "At first they didn't realize I was an American," said Johnson. They quickly realized their mistake and gave her a jumpsuit from one of their light armored vehicles' crewmen, but she held on to her prison pajamas in a brown plastic bag.

"I broke down. I was like, Oh my God, I'm home," said Johnson. And now Johnson says she has one goal, to be at her own home in El Paso by May 20th - her daughter Janelle's 3rd birthday.

Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press

*   *   *   *   *

Plans For Official Shoshana Johnson Welcome Home Celebration


Friends And Family Begin To Make Initial Plans For Her Return

"It just worked out beautifully. So we just thought there was divine intervention there," says Claude Johnson. He attributes Shoshana's return to a strong sense of hope and a lot of faith and prayer. For him the joy of seeing TV and back in S.S. hands is beyond what he can describe.

"I don't know if there are any words in any dictionary any encyclopedia that can describe the feeling when you see her and you realize...oh's real. She's alive...she's well," says Johnson. Well enough to walk on to a military plane, despite several gun shot injuries to her ankles. But up until Sunday's rescue, Johnson says there was a period of uncertainty for his family.

Mom receives the good news-- Shana Found!

"Oh . . . the period . . . that period from the time we found out that she was a prisoner of war up until the time she came back to us . . . or back in the arms of the u.s. forces, it was extremely stressful," says Johnson. He says because there was no news about her, so many concerns were going through his head.

"Where is she? What conditions is she living under? What are they doing to her? And that didn't lend for good sleeping at all. I would wake up in the middle of the night with all these thoughts going through my mind," says Johnson. But those restless nights ended after 3 weeks when Johnson saw his daughter in the company of U.S. marines.

"I was able to get some good sleep, after Sunday. Finally I know that she's safe, she's okay and that she's coming home." Although there's no official word on when she will come home, Johnson says it was wonderful to hear her voice on Sunday when they got the first phone call from her.

"It was great hearing from her. She got to speak to her daughter...and i think that was just fantastic . . . she started crying and then she ended up laughing, you know because she got to speak to everybody." Now that she's safe, Johnson says he is just waiting for the day when Shoshana does make it back.

For her official Welcome Home Celebration there is a meeting planned this Thursday, April 17th at 5:30 p.m. inside the El Paso Times Community Room.

Copyright 2003  

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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Super Rich: A Guide to Having it All

By Russell Simmons

Russell Simmons knows firsthand that wealth is rooted in much more than the stock  market. True wealth has more to do with what's in your heart than what's in your wallet. Using this knowledge, Simmons became one of America's shrewdest entrepreneurs, achieving a level of success that most investors only dream about. No matter how much material gain he accumulated, he never stopped lending a hand to those less fortunate. In Super Rich, Simmons uses his rare blend of spiritual savvy and street-smart wisdom to offer a new definition of wealth-and share timeless principles for developing an unshakable sense of self that can weather any financial storm. As Simmons says, "Happy can make you money, but money can't make you happy."

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

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