ALBANY, GA (WALB) – A former prisoner of war spoke about her war experience and life after the military to a group of Albany State students Thursday. Shoshana Johnson, the first African-American female POW, was held hostage in Iraq for twenty-two days in 2003.
Now Johnson is touring college campuses to share her encouraging message of survival and talk about her new book.
Shoshana Johnson always looks at the bright side of life. "I spent 22 days in captivity after being ambushed in Iraq. And it was... an experience. But I think there are people who have endured much worse," she said.
Johnson's new book, I'm Still Standing, details her time in Iraq and the effects combat had on her mental and physical health.
"You know, I was injured and sometimes it is very difficult. But I try not to let it hinder me too much and I'm still pursuing my culinary which I have to do on my feet. And I still wear my heels!"
Johnson joined the military to pay for college. But she's not quick to tell others to do the same. "I would always say college first but college first doesn't work for everyone. Sometimes they really need that outside exposure of the world before they can go to college and follow through."
Now Johnson inspires college students to find their own direction in life. "As long as the students take away something, it's worth it to put yourself on the line a little bit," said Natasha Rodney, a first semester ROTC cadet.
Rodney says she needed Johnson's straightforward, but encouraging speech. "I know it's hard, i know it's going to be intense, but she reassured me and said if you want something, you have to work for it and not give up."
Another ASU student, Abram King, said Johnson's experiences opened his eyes about his own life. "I'm very spoiled and I have no reason to be after hearing her story. That makes me think, 'Am I man enough?' Hearing a female go through all this stuff."
And through it all, Johnson remains humble. "It's always amazing to me when I get asked to speak to people in college because I don't see the big deal concerning myself."
She might not see it, but these students know she's an American hero.
Johnson received several awards for her service to our country. She says she now looks forward to finishing her culinary degree and becoming a chef.