Image

11:06 PM / Sunday April 11, 2021

19 Feb 2010

Ex-POW Shoshana Johnson shares her struggle

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
February 19, 2010 Category: Stateside Posted by:

By: Kimberly Hefling

Associated Press

ABOVE BACKGROUND PHOTO: In this April 13, 2003, file photo former POW Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson, 30, center, is escorted by U.S. soldiers to a waiting C-130 transport plane. Johnson, whose convoy of the 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed March 23 in Nasiriyah, survived a gunshot wound to each leg and 22 days in captivity. In a new memoir, the 37-year-old single mother describes the mental health problems related to her captivity and life in the shadow of fellow POW Jessica Lynch. 

(AP Photo/Wally Santana, File) 


WASHINGTON— Shoshana Johnson survived gunshot wounds to both legs and 22 days as a prisoner of war in Iraq. Life wasn’t so easy when she came home, either.

 

In her recently released book, the 37-year-old single mother describes mental health problems related to her captivity and tells how it felt to play second fiddle in the media to fellow POW Jessica Lynch, who was captured in the same ambush.

 

“It was kind of hurtful,” the former Army cook said in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “If I’d been a petite, cutesy thing, it would’ve been different.”

 

Johnson, the nation’s first female black prisoner of war, said she felt she was portrayed differently because of her race, either by media outlets that chose not to cover her experience or those who portrayed her as greedy when she challenged the disability rating she was given for her post-traumatic stress disorder.

 

While the story of Lynch, then 19, remains firmly in the nation’s collective memory from the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, far less attention has been paid to Johnson, then 30, and four male soldiers from the 507th Maintenance Co. from Fort Bliss, Texas, who also survived captivity.

 

Johnson was rescued by Marines, about two weeks after Lynch’s rescue. Months after returning home, Johnson left the military and today is enrolled in culinary school. She lives in El Paso, Texas, with her nine-year-old daughter.

 

Johnson’s book, “I’m Still Standing,” is being released in time for Black History Month. Johnson said she hopes that by telling her story, she can set the record straight and bring attention to mental health issues affecting veterans.

 

The day of the 2003 ambush, Johnson and Lynch were among 33 U.S. soldiers in a convoy that got lost in Nasiriyah en route to Baghdad. Their journey, Johnson said, was hampered by broken-down vehicles and malfunctioning equipment. Eleven were killed — including Johnson’s friend Army Pfc. Lori Piestewa.

 

Johnson asked to be medically discharged from the military in part because she felt other soldiers resented her over the attention her POW status attracted.

 

She’s also struggled with depression and nightmares. At times it was so bad, she writes, that her daughter, who was 2 at the time Johnson was captured, asked Johnson’s parents, “Why is Mommy crying all the time?”

 

In 2008, she checked herself into a psychiatric ward for a few days.

 

“Even when I came home, I didn’t think I’d ever get better. I didn’t think the issues I had would ever ease,” Johnson said in the interview. “But as time goes on and I stick with my therapy, it has gotten easier, and I know if I keep on the right track, I’ll be OK.”

 

It was hard at first to admit to having PTSD, she said, because she thought of it as something that happened to Vietnam veterans.

 

“When they started throwing out that word when I came

home, I was like, no, that’s not me,” Johnson said.

 

Image

Today, Johnson is training to be a pastry chef so she can make wedding and birthday cakes.

 

“It would just be nice to be able to celebrate those special moments with people,” she said. “After everything that’s gone on, I think those kinds of moments are very special.”

 

After successfully fighting to receive improved disability benefits stemming from her PTSD, she was later asked to serve on the Veterans Affairs Department’s panel on minority affairs.

 

She speaks proudly of the other POWs in captivity with her and keeps in touch with them. She said they schedule annual POW exams — the Defense Department is studying the effects of captivity — at the same time in Florida so they can see each other.

 

Contrary to speculation, Johnson said she was never angry at Lynch or jealous of her.

 

“Jessica is my friend,” Johnson writes. “I was her friend before the ambush and I’m still her friend now.”

 

One of the most brutal things Johnson endured was a captor grabbing her chest. She tells in her book of mobs of Iraqi people coming to view her as a vehicle she was in traveled from town to town, with one villager slapping her and another spitting on her. But while the men endured beatings during the captivity, she said she was treated better.

 

She describes acts of kindness, too, by the Iraqis. One doctor operated on her legs, which she credits with allowing her to keep them. Another doctor early in her captivity whispered to her that a woman Johnson assumed was Lynch was alive, which provided comfort.

  • Facebook
  • Twitter

Leave a Comment

Recent News

Color Of Money

The Business Corner: Nbeauty hair salon continues to grow during the pandemic

April 9, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email By Teresa Lundy For this edition of The Business Corner, I interviewed Naeemah...

Go With The-Flo

Tsebiyah Derry is slaying music streaming platforms with her new love ballad, “Coastline”

April 9, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email ABOVE PHOTO: Tsebiyah Derry By Florence Anthony According to reports, fans of DMX’s...

Seniors

Be a stroke hero – how to identify the signs of stroke and why you should act fast

April 9, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email BPT The sudden onset of stroke symptoms can happen to anyone at any...

Technology

Details from more than 500 million Facebook users found available on a website for hackers

April 4, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email NEW YORK (AP) — Details from more than 500 million Facebook users have...

Commentary

Alawfultruth: The caste system within

April 9, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email In the United States, Black and brown people are usually placed into the...

Horoscopes

SUNscopes for the week of April 11, 2021

April 9, 2021

Tweet Share Pin Email All Signs: This week the Sun and Mercury are dancing with lucky moneybags...

The Philadelphia Sunday Sun Staff