The Story Of A Female Soldier

The true story of Army SPC Michelle M. Witmer, assigned to the Wisconsin Army National Guard’s 32nd Military Police Company.

On the night of April 9, 2003, Michelle’s squad was called in to help protect an Iraqi police station that was being overrun by insurgents. Michelle, who usually drove the vehicle, instead acted as gunner that night. Minutes before she headed out, she sent an e-mail to her twin sister Charity (a medic in Baghdad), about their sister Rachel, who was also an MP stationed with the 32nd MPC in Baghdad.

The e-mail said, “Hi, sweetie bear. I love you. We are about to head out. Things have gotten really bad. I’m really worried about Rachel. She is [patrolling] in a bad part of town. I hope you will be ok. I just want you to know I love you for ever.”

Michelle and Rachel saw each other before they left that evening, in vehicle convoys headed for different parts of the city. Here are their own words about the events of April 9, taken from e-mail messages and interviews.

Michelle wrote, “We had a briefing telling us to prepare ourselves as best as possible for what lies ahead. I guess every convoy that’s gone up north so far has taken fire or been ambushed. The question of whether we will or not is not even really a question, more like a guess as to when.”

Rachel said, “I was in a gunner truck. I remember looking over and seeing my sister as a gunner. That’s odd. She’s usually the driver. I smiled at her. She smiled back at me. To this day I will kick myself, I had an urge to run over to her and hug her and tell her to be safe.”

There was something different in Michelle’s face, Rachel says. “It was more stoic than usual and she just-I don’t know if people know what’s going to happen to them, but she just-she had this calm, stoic look on her face.” Then Michelle waved goodbye, and it was the last time Rachel saw her.

Looking back, Michelle’s sister Charity also noticed something different about her twin sibling. “She just was so-at peace with herself, and with life. And [in] retrospect it’s just incredible to me. It was like she knew.”

“As I understand it, the patrol that Michelle was with was three Humvees, and they found themselves in the middle of a three-block-long ambush. All hell broke loose and there was fire from every direction.”

Michelle returned fire with her 50-caliber rail-mounted machine gun. Although she wore extensive protective gear, a single enemy bullet found an Achilles heel, striking below her arm and piercing her heart.

When Michelle was killed, she was supposed to serve only five more days of patrol duty before preparing to leave Iraq.

Above: Michelle with children of Baghdad. A fellow MP, Shizuko Jackson, wrote: “The children LOVED Michelle, and they literally chanted her name every time we pulled up to the station, ‘Michelle! Michelle! Michelle!’ Months after we left Al-Quanat for another mission, whenever we came back to visit, the kids still remembered her and asked for her ‘Where is MY Michelle?!!” Left: Michelle and her sisters Rachel and Charity.

2 Responses to “The Story Of A Female Soldier”

  1. Sharon from NY Says:

    Thank you for publishing this story where we can all
    see it. Not only do we need to remember all those who have
    made the ultimate sacrifice, but people need to know about
    the women who also serve and are wounded and die in their service to us.
    I am old enough to remember when the role of women in the military was
    even more limited than now. Women are just as capable as men in their roles
    in the military and their service and sacrifices should be more widely
    recognized. Thank you for doing that. Thank you, as well, for your own service
    and the sacrifices that you make. You all make it possible for me to sleep at night.

  2. Lois Ryan Says:

    I am so proud of all of you. Thank you for the stories that make
    this real to us. It is not just a news reporter putting his/her
    spin on what is going on, but real people showing us the very best
    America has to give. That’s what and who all of you are. You are
    the very best. Thank you for keeping us free.
    Lois Ryan

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