- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 23, 2010

In helping former U.S. Army Spc. Shoshana Johnson write her autobiography, Fort Meade Media Relations Chief Mary L. Doyle not only exposed the world to the plight of the country’s first black female prisoner of war, but also furthered her own budding literary career.

The book tells the story of Ms. Johnson, a single mother from Texas who was part of a supply detail when her company was ambushed in Iraq just days after the U.S. invasion began.

Eleven members of Ms. Johnson’s company were killed. Six others, including Ms. Johnson and then 19-year-old soldier Jessica Lynch, were assaulted and taken prisoner by Iraqi forces on March 23, 2003. Ms. Johnson was shot in both legs during the attack. The American prisoners were freed by Marines several weeks later.

Though Ms. Johnson was awarded a Bronze Star and Purple Heart, her capture was largely ignored and overshadowed in the media and among military leadership by then-Pfc. Lynch’s captivity.

The incident touched off a firestorm of controversy about racism in the military and the media. Reports surfaced that Ms. Lynch had received a more lucrative book deal and larger disability payments than Ms. Johnson.

“I was shocked at how open [Ms. Johnson] was,” Ms. Doyle said. “She really bared her soul about the ambush and her captivity.”

Ms. Doyle, 50, spent several days at Ms. Johnson’s El Paso, Texas, home while preparing to write the book.

She was not the first choice to write Ms. Johnson’s autobiography. Ms. Johnson originally signed a deal with another publishing company and author before parting ways with them and signing with publishing giant Simon & Schuster.

Ms. Doyle, an Army reservist for 17 years who spent time in Bosnia, had just returned to work for Fort George G. Meade’s Public Affairs Office after working in Korea for the Armed Forces Network. She also was putting the finishing touches on her own novel.

Writing has long been a passion for Ms. Doyle. She said she always wrote short stories and screenplays. She has a personal blog dedicated to writing.

The Minneapolis native signed with a book agent to shop around her novel. Her agent wasn’t having much luck with her murder mystery but was able to land the deal with Simon & Schuster to pen Ms. Johnson’s story last year.

Ms. Doyle said the book details the unimaginable emotional stress Ms. Johnson suffered from the ambush and capture.

“People don’t realize how a military unit is like a family,” Ms. Doyle said.

She also describes the relationship between Ms. Johnson and Ms. Lynch. There have been reports that Ms. Johnson has animosity toward Ms. Lynch, but Ms. Doyle said that isn’t true. The two travel to memorial services and other events together, she said.

However, Ms. Johnson says in the book that several commanders and fellow soldiers at Fort Bliss, where she was assigned, began resenting the star treatment she and other POWs received when they returned home. The ordeal forced Ms. Johnson to resign from the Army. She eventually was granted an honorable discharge.

“I’m Still Standing” already has been featured on the “Today” show” and other major media outlets.

Ms. Doyle said she hopes eventually to be able to write books and novels full time.

“I love working for Fort Meade,” she said, “but I love writing.”

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