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Shoshana Johnson      

First African American Woman POW in U.S. War History & Author of "I’m Still Standing"

Shoshana Nyree Johnson was born in the Republic of Panama to Panamanian parents Claude and Eunice Johnson. Johnson lives in El Paso, Texas near her family.

Johnson was a JROTC cadet in 1991, and an Andress High School graduate. She attended the University of Texas at El Paso, and later joined the US Army in September 1998. She completed the US Army Basic Training Course at Ft. Jackson, South Carolina, and the Advance Individual Training, at Ft. Lee, Virginia.

A second-generation Army Veteran, Johnson's first military assignment was at Ft. Carson, Colorado. In February, 2003, at her second military assignment at Ft. Bliss, Texas, Johnson received orders to deploy to Iraq and to carry through her duties as a Food Service Specialist, (92G) with the 507th Maintenance Company, 5/52 Battalion 11th Brigade.

On March 23, during Operation Iraqi Freedom, Johnson was in a convoy that was ambushed in the city of an-Nasiriyah. Johnson received a bullet wound to her ankle, causing injuries to both legs. She and 5 other members of the 507th Maintenance Company were captured and taken Prisoners of War. The ambush and its aftermath made world news headlines.

House raids conducted by US Marines in the city of Samarra, Iraq, resulted in the successful rescue of seven POWs on the morning of April 13. Later, Johnson, together with six former POWs, came back to a heroes welcome in the US.

Specialist Johnson retired from the Army on an Honorable Discharge on December 12, 2003. Johnson's awards and decorations include the US Army Service Ribbon, Army Commendation Ribbon, National Defense Ribbon, Good Conduct Medal, Bronze Star Medal, Purple Heart Medal, and the Prisoner of War Medal. US Army officials identified Johnson as the first female POW of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the first black female POW in US war history. Johnson was awarded the Order of Manuel Amador Guerrero by her native country of Panama, it's the highest honor.

Since her return to the United States, Specialist Johnson has received numerous awards, and recognition for her courage, valor, and service to the United States. She graduated from El Paso Community College with an Associate of Arts degree in May 2008. She received her degree in culinary arts (pastry) in May 2011 at the same College.

Johnson has penned a memoir about her experience entitled “I’m Still Standing: From Captured Soldier to Free Citizen-My Journey Home.” The biography was nominated for a NAACP Image Award and is a national bestseller. Johnson plans on pursuing nutrition degree in the near future and when possible advocates for fellow veterans.

Speech Topics

The Female Veteran Experience

Johnson discusses navigating life as a female veteran in today’s world, and discusses the several hurdles and disadvantages women face in the US military.

Living in the PTSD Fog

This talk deals with Johnson's life with PTSD after her harrowing time as a POW in the Iraqi war, and how she learned how to ask for help. She also details her struggle with US Military to acknowledge her PTSD from her time in service. In this talk, she helps break the stigma and shame that surrounds PTSD and the veterans that suffer from it.

POW'rful Woman

In Johnson's powerful talk, she details her time as the first-ever African-American woman POW. From her capture in Iraq, to her harrowing three week-imprisonment, up to her eventual rescue. She recounts her moving tale of survival and trauma, and the aftermath that she lives with everyday, including PTSD, adjusting to civilian life, and moving forward from the horrors she experienced.

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