Shoshana Johnson was an Army cook who was captured along with 5 other soldiers and held as a prisoner of war during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Johnson was shot in the ankles and held for 22 days before being rescued. Upon retirement from the Army, she went on to tell her experience and try to help others
Johnson was part of the 507th Maintenance Company from Fort Bliss that was ambushed on March 23, 2003, in Nasiriyah, Iraq. Her convoy came under heavy attack from Fedayeen paramilitaries and Iraqi soldiers after the unit made a wrong turn into an enemy urban stronghold.
The now retired Army specialist had turned 30 on March 18, 2003, five days before her convoy was attacked. Johnson and her fellow soldiers had joined the march into Iraq for the U.S. ground offensive, and soon they found themselves in the middle of a fierce firefight they never expected. Johnson was a cook in the support unit. Neither she nor the others were combat soldiers.
The former Army specialist, who prefers to describe herself as Panamanian-American, is the first African-American woman POW. She suffered incapacitating injuries after a single shot from an Iraqi passed through both of her ankles. “I was bleeding and my boots filled up with blood,” she said. “After my boots were removed, I couldn’t believe that the raw wounds with all the gore were really mine.”
On April 13, 2003, the Marines arrived on a rescue mission. “They showed up like in those action movies. They broke down the door and busted inside with their weapons aimed,” Johnson said. “They had everyone get down on the floor. They asked us to stand up if we were Americans. I knew then that we were going home.”
We honor you, Shoshana Johnson.
SPC Dane R. Balcon was born on 27 April 1988, at Luke AFB Arizona, Dane Balcon was only 3 years old the day he told his mother he wanted to be a soldier.
In 2007, he enlisted in the Army as a Fire Support Specialist, following graduation from Sand Creek High School. He attended Basic Training and Advanced Individual Training with 2nd Platoon, Bravo Battery, 1st Battalion, 40th Field Artillery Regiment, at Fort Sill, OK. Upon graduation from AIT, SPC Balcon received his first assignment to 3rd Squadron 8th Cavalry Regt., 1st Cavalry Division, in Fort Hood, TX. He deployed to Iraq in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom in Balad, Iraq on 7 July 2007 and on 5 September 2007 he completed his mission-doing what he loved doing -serving his country.
We honor you, Dane Balcon.
On 22 June 2004 Sergeant First Class Hand was the Convoy Security Team Leader in a logistical convoy traveling north on Main Supply Route Tampa from Al Taqaddum, Iraq to Camp Anaconda at Balad, Iraq. At approximately 0200, the transfer truck he was traveling in was attacked by an improvised explosive device. Due to the explosion, the driver lost control of the vehicle. While traveling about 100 kilometers an hour, the vehicle went across the median, the left hand lanes and into a palm tree grove. The vehicle finally stopped about 100 meters into the grove and the windshield had blown inward on them. The driver jumped out of the vehicle to stop the convoy.
Sergeant First Class Hand got out of the vehicle and tried to run. He repeatedly lost footing resulting in contusions to his lower left extremity and left wrist. After reaching the road, he saw the convoy gun truck. He screamed, “It’s me, don’t shoot, it’s Sergeant First Class Hand.” He was recovered by the convoy truck and taken to the front gate of Logistical Supply Area Anaconda., Balad, Iraq. He was then transported ot 31st Combat Support Hospital where he was treated for corneal abrasions on his left eye caused by the glass blown from the vehicles windshield.
We honor you, Chad Hand.
(#Repost @National Purple Heart Hall of Fame)
Sergeant Damien Thai Ficek, 26, an infantryman assigned to Company C, 1st Battalion, 161st Infantry, a part of the 81st Brigade Combat Team, died December 30th, 2004 as a result of hostile action near Baghdad.
Washington Governor Gary Locke issued this statement; “I praise and honor Damien for answering the call of duty, and I salute him for making the ultimate sacrifice in defending our security, our freedoms and our way of life,” said Gov. Gary Locke. “I know how much he will be missed and my heart goes out to his wife and family.”
SGT Ficek graduated from Beaverton High School, Beaverton, Oregon in June of 1996 and enlisted in the United States Army in August of 1996, serving with 2nd Ranger Battalion at Fort Lewis, Tacoma WA. He remained on active duty with the Army until June of 2000 and was extremely proud of his service as a Ranger. In July of 2002, he enlisted in the Washington Army National Guard and was activated and deployed for service in Iraq in February of 2003.
SGT Ficek was an accomplished athlete and student. In High School Damien was selected as Co-Captain for both his wrestling and football teams. At Washington State University, where he was a student in the Athletic Training Education Program, Damien was outstanding performer; having made the President’s Honor Roll on several occasions and had been granted an academic scholarship. Damien was guided and influenced by many families and friends including grandparents with whom he spent a great deal of time throughout his life.
Major General Timothy Lowenberg, the Adjutant General of the Washington National Guard, and Brigadier General Oscar Hilman, Commander of the 81st Brigade Combat Team, along with the entire Washington Military Department express their heartfelt sympathy to Sergeant Ficek’s family and loved ones.
We honor you, Damien Ficek.
(Submission by: Miah Parry. #Repost @WA National Guard)
Richard L. Schild loved Christmas so much that some of his friends had to tell him to cool it. “He was always looking for new ways to decorate,” said Merlin Goehring, a co-worker. “He always wanted the Christmas tree up before Thanksgiving, and I would tell him, ”You can”t light it up until Friday.”” Schild, 40, of Tabor, S.D., was killed Dec. 4 in a roadside bomb in Baghdad. He graduated from Mount Marty College and was assigned to Yankton. Schild was the office manager for the Bon Homme-Yankton Rural Electric Association and was trying to turn a portion of the local elementary school into a daycare run by a nonprofit organization. “Rich was one of those guys who, when he was lined up to do something, was committed and took it very seriously,” said elementary principal Mike Duffek. “I think of his personality as like a bulldog _ ”If I”m supposed to do something when I said I would, I would go do it.”” Ron Koupal, who hired Schild, said he enjoyed football and golf. “He loved the Minnesota Vikings and the Nebraska Cornhuskers,” Koupal said.
We honor you, Richard Schild.
(Submission by: Miah Parry. #Repost @The Washington Post)
Before Marshall A. Westbrook was deployed to Iraq, he installed a new door on his family’s home. It was the start of many home improvement projects he wanted to get done. Recently, about 20 community volunteers from at least eight local businesses, including the Public Service Company of New Mexico, where Westbrook worked as an environmental process operator, picked up hammers and other tools and picked up where Westbrook left off. “He worked for us for 23 years. This is the least we could do,” said Dick Goeden, who worked with Westbrook at PNM. “The house definitely needed some repairs.”
“He was a gentle giant,” said Sergeant First Class Arthur Garcia, who has known Westbrook in and out of the military for about 15 years. “He had a soft voice. He was a good guy, and he will be sorely missed.”
Westbrook was a member of the Albuquerque-based 126th Military Police Company. He died on the morning of Oct. 1 in Baghdad after being struck in the head by shrapnel from an explosive device.
“He loved his family. He loved his soldiers. This gentle giant, Sergeant Allen Westbrook, will rest in peace,” Brigadier General Kenny Montoya said. Westbrook, born July 25, 1962 at Fort Leonard Wood, Mo., was married and the father of five children.
We honor you, Marshall Westbrook.
(#Repost @Fallen Heroes Project)
James Nappier’s persistence and devotion to serving his country resulted in the improbable scenario of a man in his 40s with a grown child enlisting in–and being accepted by–the Navy’s Seabees. By virtue of his six years in the Marines beginning when he had dropped out of high school, Nappier’s real age was knocked down to just under the upper limit for eligibility. This was in 2000, when no one had any idea of military deployments to a war in the Middle East. In Iraq, Nappier kept volunteering for the most dangerous missions, figuring he was saving one younger man with young children from harm’s way.
We honor you, James Nappier Jr.
(#Repost @Veteran’s History Project)