Today marks the 20th Anniversary of the Invasion of Iraq. As we take time to reflect on the thousands of lives lost and the friends and families that continue to endure the immeasurable loss, may we recommit to our promise ensuring our veterans, survivors, and caregivers are always remembered and supported.
The impacts of war are sustaining, and as such it is just as imperative now as it was some twenty years ago, to ensure our veterans can achieve the lives they and the fallen guaranteed for so many. For some veterans the most unrelenting battle has been post war; to find a renewed sense of purpose, an understanding community, and finding the courage to ask for help.
Foundation for Women Warriors fulfills our sacred responsibility by ensuring our veterans have access to a community of support, programs specifically designed for women veterans to enhance their personal and financial stability, and opportunities to use their skills and leadership to impact their communities.
Today, we also remember the women whose service and sacrifice changed the course for women’s roles in the military. Just days into the invasion, Specialist Lori Piestewa a single mother of two, Specialist Shoshana Johnson a single mother of one, and Private First-Class Jessica Lynch among others of the United States Army’s 507th Maintenance Company were ambushed.
Piestewa, Johnson, and Lynch all survived the ambush and were taken prisoner along with four other soldiers. Lynch would be rescued on April 1st, 2003, and Johnson on April 22nd, 2003. Piestewa, a member of the Hopi tribe, died of her wounds soon after her capture, making her the first Native American woman to die in combat while serving in the U.S. military and the first woman in the U.S. military killed in the Iraq War.
This past Saturday, in Washington D.C. commemorating the 20-year Anniversary, Jessica Lynch shared her unimaginable experience as a POW with the Military Women’s Memorial audience. As she approached the podium, her injuries visibly impaired her gait, serving as a reminder that despite the war’s end, the scars remain. Jessica’s address, however, was one of resilience and hope:
“I’m not the only one that has been through these obstacles or struggles…we all face trials and tribulations. It’s just being able to find that strength within you. For me it was that perseverance, that never give up attitude, that I wanted to be able to hold on for one more day… No matter what you are facing in life, you’re able to overcome it.”
Jessica is now a school teacher and mother to daughter Dakota Ann, named in memory of her best friend Lori Ann Piestewa.
Might we all strive to live by Jessica’s example of perseverance.