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Mommy has to go to war: First African American female POW to speak

She doesn’t consider herself a hero; she’s much too humble for that. Perhaps the reason why the story of former U.S. Army Specialist (SPC) Shoshana Johnson touched the lives of so many Americans is because she could be your sister, your cousin, or your best friend. Before the incident in Iraq, she was a platform and stiletto girl; a single mother who preferred to tell her daughter when she was called to serve, “mommy has to go to work.” Upon her return she became a hero to many and her rescue made global headlines.

Now retired from the military, Johnson will share her inspiring story, detailing her capture behind enemy lines near the city of An Nasiriyah, Wed., Feb. 8th. at 5:30 p.m. in the Tamarack Auditorium at IU Northwest. Johnson was held hostage in Iraq for 22 days after being captured with Jessica Lynch and four other members of the 507th Maintenance Company, 552 Battalion 11th Brigade. Johnson, who suffered bullet wounds to both of her ankles, survived the ordeal as a result of a successful U.S. Marine rescue mission on April 13, 2003.

"We are extremely pleased to have SPC Johnson come to IU Northwest and speak. It is definitely one of the high points in this year’s Diversity Programming Series. It’s important for us to have a better understanding and appreciation for the trauma endured by prisoners of war and particularly women who are or have been prisoners of war," said Dr. Ken Coopwood, Sr., interim vice chancellor for student services and executive director for diversity and equity at IU Northwest.

A young mother who joined the Army to support her family, US Army officials identify Johnson as the first female POW of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the first African American female POW in US military history. While at IU Northwest, Johnson will talk about her kidnapping, the rescue operation, and how her life has changed since returning home.

Since her return, Johnson has received many awards and recognitions for her courage including: The U.S. Army Service Ribbon, Army Commendation Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, and the Prisoner of War Medal. She has also been recognized with standing ovations from small groups to crowds of well over 65,000 people at select events hosted by the President of the Republic of Panama, NAACP, Rainbow PUSH Coalition, several major sporting events, and most recently, as the New York Mayor’s special guest at Times Square on New Year’s Eve.

“We are excited and proud that SPC Johnson has chosen to come to IU Northwest. We’re looking forward to the R.O.T.C. cadets at IU Northwest having the opportunity to hear SPC Johnson speak about her experiences. I know her appearance will be a memorable event in the lives of these future leaders,” said 1LT Eric Nance, assistant professor of military science, R.O.T.C, IU Northwest.

Part of the IU Northwest Diversity Programming Series, this event is sponsored by the Office of Multicultural Affairs and Department of Women’s Studies.

For questions or more information regarding this event please contact the Office of Multicultural Affairs at 219-980-6763 or email



Media Contact:

Michelle Searer

Retired Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson.
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