"I'm sorry I must leave, but I must do what is asked of me by my God, my Country, and my Corps.. and so, the war blog begins, again." ~B

10 February 2010

I'm Still Standing: From Captive U.S. Soldier to Free Citizen- My Journey Home by Shoshana Johnson

I was excited to come across Shoshana Johnson's book with M.L. Doyle, I'm Still Standing: From Captive U.S. Soldier to Free Citizen- My Journey Home.

I'm glad she decided to share her story, as it is an important piece of the Iraq War POW narrative. So much of what we, the public, have heard about what happened is clouded by DOD gag orders and agendas and media ADD. Even when the official report came out on the 507th Maintenance Company's incident in Nasiriyah, many contributing factors seemed to be missing.

The book itself is a cohesive narrative I couldn't put down. I read it in about a day and half. It alternates between Shoshana's civilian and early Army life and her time in captivity, as she explains how she ended up in the Army, the 507th, Kuwait, Iraq, and finally a POW.

She sheds light on the details of her captivity, on her captors' aggression and moments of kindness. She speaks of the bonds forged with her fellow prisoners and the loss of so many friends in the ambush.

Most importantly, she sheds light on aspects of her captivity and total experience as a POW the media often missed. It becomes apparent how poorly both Shoshana and Jessica Lynch were treated by the Army and the media. Lynch was used exploited by both for ratings and morale and was forced to defend herself against an avalanch of attention she had no part in creating. Shana was given less media attention, saw her injuries rated differently by the Army, and had to deal with insinuations that she was jealous of Jessica Lynch's attention when the truth was that they remained friends.

Shoshana Johnson's story highlights some very important aspects of the POW incident that both the Army and the media should learn from.

For me, the most surprising part has been learning of the backlash many of the POWs faced once they were returned to units stateside. They faced resentment from fellow soldiers and despite attending media events on orders from the Army, that they were receiving undeserved attention.

Instead of taking responsibility for failures that led to the ambush in Nasiriyah, the various Army and media reports left the impression that the 507th were somehow so incompetent and negligent that they bore the blame for their predicament. Johnson rebuts those accusations and spells out the way a series of problems from training, to leadership, to equipment failure, broken procedure, and confusion came together to contribute to the death, injury, and capture of the 507th Maintenance Company.

In the closing chapters, Johnson mentions that the 507th doesn't exist as such anymore, the Army having re-purposed and renamed the unit. She and other OIF POWs aren't invited to many Army POW events anymore, and her speaking engagements have dwindled.

It is important to remember the sacrifices of the 507th Maintenance Company and the OIF prisoners of war. No matter how much some segments of the military may wish to pretend it never happened, it did. There are lessons to be learned to prevent such incidents from occurring in future conflicts.

Above all, each member of the 507th was a volunteer who served their country in a time of war. Many, many members of that unit lost their lives. Others faced injury and captivity and conducted themselves with honor and dignity. They deserve to be remembered. Their stories deserve to be told.


Richard S. Lowry said...

After reading Shoshana's account you may want to know about the entire battle for Nasiriyah. Read Marines in the Garden of Eden to learn the complete story of what happened on March 23, 2003.

Loosing the element of surprise, the Marines lost 18 young men as they moved to secure the bridges that the 507th had raced across earlier in the day. In all, 29 Americans lost their lives on that terrible day.

Visit www.marinesinthegardenofeden.com for more info.

Richard S. Lowry

I, Wendy said...

Thanks Richard. I will check it out and add it to the reading list.