Shoshana Johnson, the AfroAmerica Network Black Woman of the Year 2003.

AfroAmerica Network, December 22,  2003.


Shoshana Johnson joined the U.S. Army in 1998.  As a specialist with the 507th Maintenance Company at Fort Bliss, the 30-year-old single mother and 1991 Andress High School graduate would be unlikely to face a life-threatening situation.


All changed when on 23 March 2003, the U.S. Army's 507th Maintenance Company was ambushed in the southern Iraqi town of Nassiriya. This support unit should never have been anywhere near the fighting, but it blundered into harm's way when it took a wrong turn. The error proved a fatal one: it cost the lives of eleven American soldiers and resulted in the capture of six others, including  Private spc. Shoshana Johnson. Johnson and the others were freed on 13 April when other U.S. forces found them.

Claude Johnson, the father of Shoshanna and  a 20-year army veteran, said that as a prisoner of war, his daughter should "go in there, behave yourself and get away."

Other family members described her as kind, popular and outgoing.  "Shoshana is a strong individual," her sister, Nikki Johnson, 28, of Fort Lee, Va., said when she learned of the capture from  her  Northeast El Paso home .

Shoshana Johnson has had close calls before, including near-car accidents, but "there's always a little angel following her around" who helps her out of difficult situations, Nikki Johnson said.

The  Black Caucus decided to honor Johnson, believed to be the first African American woman to be taken as a prisoner of war. Milney of the Black Caucus  said. "They (the caucus) felt she had earned it. She has shown bravery and patriotism while serving her country." "Honoring you is like honoring ourselves," Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) said.

"Miss Johnson's dedication to her job represents the highest ideals of patriotism and military service," Rangel said. 

Johnson was one of seven soldiers captured on March 23 during an ambush, when the 507th Maintenance Ordinance Co. that supported the 3rd Infantry took the  wrong turn. Three women soldiers were part of that ill-fated unit, Army Pfc. Lori Ann Piestewa, Pfc. Jessica Lynch and Johnson. Reportedly, Piestewa died from injuries she sustained when the vehicle she was driving crashed during the ambush. Piestewa was the first Native American woman ever killed in combat.

Johnson was shot twice and endured weeks of harsh captivity. She was one of those paraded before Iraqi cameras, with films shown around the world. Her face, wan with fear, was burned into the memories of people everywhere. Johnson emerged with her fellow soldiers, hobbling to the rescue helicopter, suffering from bullet wounds in her ankles. She virtually disappeared after her return to the United States

At its tribute, the Black Caucus thanked Johnson for "displaying bravery and heroism during Operation Iraqi Freedom." They gave her the plaque and the flag.

Her family glowed with pride or wept quietly.

 Shoshana Johnson, was discharged from the Army on December 12, 2003 after serving 5 years. "Although I am now leaving the Army, I in no way regret my time in the military," Johnson said in a statement.

"To my fallen comrades and their families, my utmost respect, and gratitude for their sacrifices," Johnson said. "Their memory has made me a better person and they will not be forgotten."

Shoshana Johnson was awarded the Bronze Star, Purple Heart, and the Prisoner of War Medal for her service in Iraq.

ŠAfroAmerica Network, December  2003.
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