Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald

Independent Student Newspaper Since 1969

The Badger Herald


Witmer sisters not to return to Iraq

The sisters of Michelle Witmer, the Wisconsin National Guard
soldier recently killed in Iraq, have opted not to return to active
duty in Iraq.

In a press conference Tuesday, Rachel, 24, and Michelle’s
twin Charity, 20, released a statement saying the choice not to
return to war after their sister’s death was, “by far,
the most difficult decision we have ever made.”

“We looked outside our family’s grief and considered
the broader impact of our individual decisions,” the two
sisters’ statement read.


Due to the international attention the Witmer family’s
loss received, military officials felt the 32nd Military Police
Company’s safety could be threatened if the two girls
returned. The 32nd, which Michelle and Rachel served in, is based
out of Madison and Milwaukee. It was ordered to tour Iraq for a
120-day extension beyond its originally scheduled 12-month

Maj. Gen. Al Wilkening, adjutant general of the Wisconsin
National Guard, said the safety of the 32nd brigade and the
grieving of the Witmer family was taken into account when deciding
what recommendation to give the two soldiers about the rest of
their military service.

“Yesterday afternoon I told them, using all the influence
I have, that they should complete their active duty military
obligations outside of Iraq,” a statement from Wilkening that
was read at the conference said.

A military regulation allows soldiers to serve out their active
duty service outside a war zone if their relative has been

“A defense department policy makes it easy for these
soldiers to be reassigned from Iraq after their sister’s
death,” Wilkening’s statement said, adding, however,
that the final decision must be made by both sisters and not
military leaders. “Charity and Rachel have wisely and
responsibly accepted the request they received from me and the
advice they received from thousands of people around the

Michelle Witmer, who was killed April 9, was the first woman in
the Wisconsin National Guard ever to be killed in action and the
first member of the state’s National Guard to be killed in
action since WWII. Since the war in Iraq began in March 2003, she
is the 16th soldier from Wisconsin to be killed.

Witmer’s two sisters returned from Iraq two weeks ago with
her body to attend funeral services in Wisconsin. The parents of
the young women appealed to Pentagon leaders and politicians to
allow their daughters to remain at home rather than return to Iraq
to serve the remainder of their time on duty.

“We trust that those in charge of making such a decision will
realize that we have already sacrificed enough and that our family
must not be asked to bear such an impossible burden,” a statement
from the Witmer family read.

Just days after learning of Witmer’s death, families of
soldiers in the 32nd learned the unit’s duty would be
unexpectedly extended through the summer months. A number of
families launched the website,, in
hopes of changing the minds of military leaders.

U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld officially approved
the 120-day extension April 16.

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