Trinicenter.comInternational Opinions

Insult to injury:

Raw deal for Jessica Lynch's
black comrade-in-arms

By Lee Hockstader in Austin, Texas
October 25, 2003,

Shot through both legs and held prisoner in Iraq for 22 days, Shoshana Johnson returned home to a difficult convalescence that lacked the media fury and official hype that attended her friend and comrade in arms Jessica Lynch.

Depressed, scarred, haunted by the trauma of her captivity and at times unable to sleep, Specialist Johnson walks with a limp and has difficulty standing for long. Now that she is on the verge of her discharge, the US Army is aggravating her injury, her parents say.

While Private Lynch was discharged in August with an 80 per cent disability benefit, Specialist Johnson learnt last week she will receive a 30 per cent disability benefit from the army for her injuries.

The difference, which amounts to $US700 ($1000) a month in payments, has infuriated Specialist Johnson and her family. They have enlisted the help of the Reverend Jesse Jackson to take their case to the news media, accusing the army of double standards, insensitivity and racism - Private Lynch is white; Specialist Johnson is black.

"Race clearly is a factor," said Mr Jackson, who will take up Specialist Johnson's cause with the White House, the Pentagon and members of Congress.

"Here's a case of two women, same [unit], same war - everything about their service commitment and their risk is equal ... Yet there's an enormous contrast between how the military has handled these two cases."

Claude Johnson, Shoshana Johnson's father and himself an army veteran, said his family did not begrudge Private Lynch her celebrity or her disability payments. But he said he believed his daughter should also get what she was due. He believes the army owes her more than the 30 per cent of disability benefit, which translates into 30 per cent of her base monthly pay - or about $US500. "There is [a double standard]," Mr Johnson said.

Specialist Johnson is 30, has a three-year-old daughter and has been living at home. She will not speak publicly about the terms of her discharge.

But her parents said she was stunned and angered when the army informed her of its decision on her disability.

When her unit blundered into an ambush in Iraq on March 23, 11 of its soldiers were killed.

Six, including Private Lynch and Specialist Johnson, were taken prisoner. In a videotape taken shortly after their capture, Specialist Johnson appeared terrified, her eyes darting back and forth among her captors.

Private Lynch was rescued on April 2. Her colleagues were released on April 13.

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