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American Veteran: She joined the Army to learn to cook. She ended up a prisoner of war

Shoshana Johnson, veteran of the U.S. Army
Insignia Films
Shoshana Johnson, veteran of the U.S. Army

To commemorate Veterans Day, the American Homefront Project collaborated with the PBS documentary series American Veteranand the companion podcast, American Veteran: Unforgettable Stories, to profile men and women who have served in the U.S military.

Army Specialist Shoshana Johnson was traveling in a convoy in Iraq in 2003 when her vehicle was attacked. Iraqi forces killed 11 soldiers in her company and captured six, including Johnson. She was held for 22 days, becoming the first Black female prisoner of war in American history.

The physical and psychological trauma of that experience stayed with her for years.

“I remember sometimes my dad would be like, ‘I want the daughter I gave the Army,’” she said. “And I was like, she’s dead and gone, Dad.”

Once her family convinced her to seek treatment for PTSD, she found a supportive the community of care among other veterans. Johnson shared the story of her capture and rescue, and how she came to terms with her experience in the years that followed.

Shoshana Johnson was recorded by Insignia Films for GBH. 

This story was produced by the American Homefront Project, a public media collaboration that reports on American military life and veterans. 

Funding for the American Homefront Project comes from the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Funding for American Veteran was provided by the Wexner Family Charitable Fund, Battelle, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, JPMorgan Chase &Co., and Analog Devices.

Elizabeth Friend grew up in North Carolina listening to public radio in the backseat of the family station wagon. She has been reporting and producing at WUNC since 2016, covering everything from Army history to armadillos. She's also the co-founder of the beloved summer event series Audio Under The Stars. In her spare time, she enjoys exploring the outside world with her family, dabbling in esoteric crafts, and cheese.