The Mother’s Day Project

War is Personal

Archive for Iraq War

LaVena Johnson

LaVena Johnson died in Iraq in July, 2005. According to the Dept. of Defense, the cause of death was a self-inflicted wound.

Her family, however, does not believe this official version of what happened to their daughter and military documents they have obtained provide few, if any, answers to their questions. In fact, the official military documents raise a considerable number of questions about the circumstances surrounding LaVena Johnson’s death.

The Johnson family has raised compelling arguments for reopening the investigation into LaVena Johnson’s death, but the military has so far refused to act.

You can read more about this case, view a video of LaVena’s father, Dr. John Johnson, and sign a petition requesting the Armed Services Committees in Congress reopen LaVena Johnson’s case.


Spc. Kamisha J. Block

Spc. Block, of Vidor, Texas was a 2005 graduate of Vidor High School and was currently serving as a military police officer in an area north of Baghdad. She was killed in Iraq at age 20.

Her death was the result of non-hostile causes and is being investigated by the Department of Defense.

Spc. Block is the third female fatality recorded in the past two days.

Sgt. Princess C. Samuels

Sgt. Samuels, 22, of Mitchellville, Maryland, was one of two soldiers killed Aug. 15 during an attack, the Pentagon announced.

Samuels was the fourth woman from Maryland to die in the war. She was assigned to Headquarters and Headquarters Troop, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division.

“I am very upset that this has happened,” Samuels’s distraught mother, Anika Lawal of Waldorf, told a reporter from the Washington Post. “I want to know why I’m planning a funeral while George Bush is planning a wedding.”

Sgt. Samuels is the 87th female Coalition member to die in Iraq.  Her funeral is scheduled for August 31st at Arlington National Cemetary.

Spc. Zandra T. Walker

A South Carolina woman was one of two Fort Hood, Texas-based soldiers that were killed by enemy fire in Iraq last week. Spc. Zandra T. Walker, 28, of Greenville, South Carolina, was killed along with Sgt. Princess C. Samuels, 22, of Mitchellville, Md., on Wednesday in Taji, Iraq. Their deaths were announced by the Defense Department today.

Walker was assigned to the 4th Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Aviation Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

Walker fueled helicopters and was serving her second tour with the Army.

Spc. Walker’s twin sister, Yolanda Worthy, also joined the Army and was serving in Kuwait when she learned of her sister’s death. The family was last together earlier this summer to attend the funeral of a younger sister who died of brain cancer.

How Many More?


I’m nearing the end of an entire bolt of muslin and still, the names keep coming.  More children without parents.  More mothers and fathers losing sons and daughters.  More husbands and wives left without their partners.

This is becoming a project with no end.

Staff Sgt. Alicia Birchett

from the Cape Cod Times – A young mother of three who was a member of the Mashpee Wampanoag tribe, died last week in Iraq of injuries in a noncombat-related accident.
Staff Sgt. Alicia (Finklea) Birchett, 29, who graduated from Falmouth High School in 1995, died Aug. 9 in Baghdad from injuries sustained in a truck accident the day before, according to a press release from the U.S. Department of Defense.

The same release says the accident is under investigation.

Birchett, known to her friends and family as “Little Brown Bee,” was assigned to the 887th Engineer Co., 326th Engineer Battalion, 101st Sustainment Brigade, 101st Airborne Division out of Fort Campbell, Ky. Her decorations include the Bronze Star.


Staff Sgt. Birchett is survived by her husband and three sons.  According to news sources, she will be laid to rest this weekend in a traditional Wampanoag ceremony.

Capt. Maria Ines Ortiz

A Puerto Rican Army nurse died on July 10th from wounds she suffered in a mortar attack in Baghdad’s Green Zone.  Capt. Ortiz was the first Army nurse to die from combat-related injuries in the Iraq war.

She had been serving in Iraq since September, and was caring for wounded Iraqis at a hospital inside the fortified district.

“She touched everyone’s lives and everything about her was positive,” her fiance, Juan Casiano, said from her mother’s home in Pennsauken, New Jersey. “She always carried a smile.”

“It was her calling,” said Casiano, an Army veteran. “I saw in her what everyone else sees, a beautiful person who brings joy to everyone she touches.”

Capt. Ortiz was forty years old and is survived by her parents and four sisters.  She is the 84th female fatality and the fourth name added to The Mother’s Day Project in the past two weeks.