MADISON, Wis. – Sgt. Charity Witmer and Spc. Rachel Witmer released the following statement about their decision not to return to Iraq:
During the last two weeks we have been mourning the loss of our sister Michelle, our hero, who gave her life in service of her country. It has been an incredibly difficult time for all of us.
We would like to take a moment to thank the thousands of people who have expressed their sympathy to our family and have offered their prayers and condolences. We would also like to thank the media for the respect you have shown for our privacy and the kindness you have shown to our family.
As you all know, we have been faced with a profoundly difficult and complex decision. It is, by far, the most difficult decision we have ever made. We have taken ample time to look at our situation from every conceivable angle and have explored all possible implications. We feel we have made an informed and appropriate choice taking into account the well-being of everyone involved.
Yesterday, we spoke with General Wilkening, who asked us to request we both complete our active duty military obligations in an assignment that would not take us back to Iraq. Although he said he could not "order" us to request reassignment, he was very clear to point out that a decision to return to Iraq might expose our fellow soldiers to increased danger. This we will not do.
We have decided to honor General Wilkening's request and the encouragement we have received from Governor Doyle and accept reassignment to other duties suitable for our military skills and expertise.
We would like to thank Governor Doyle, General Wilkening, General Denson and our immediate commanders Colonel Lee and Captain Southworth for supporting us as we looked outside our family grief and considered the broader impact of our individual decisions. We would also like to extend our sincerest thanks to Lieutenant Colonel Tim Donovan, Lieutenant Colonel Mark Bruns and Major Julie Gerety, we consider them as forever a part of our extended family.
We thank them all, the National Guard and all our fellow soldiers for their expressions of kindness and concern. We especially treasure the friendship, camaraderie and heartfelt sympathy shared with us by the 32nd Military Police Company and Company B 118th Medical Battalion. We know you mourn the loss of Michelle with us. Our thoughts and prayers are with you until you return home safely.