WASHINGTON - They say a picture is worth a thousand words.
Well, here are several hundred about a picture in Wednesday's Washington Post of a woman in the National Guard who just returned home after a year of service in Iraq.
She is Sgt. 1st Class Shannon Goodwin, 43, of Upper Marlboro, Md., whose 547th Transportation Unit was welcomed home Tuesday in a ceremony at the Washington, D.C. Armory.
The picture showed Goodwin, in tan camouflage fatigues, her sergeant's stripes on her collar, with her hands clasped just below her chin, with her head tilted back, eyes squeezed shut and tears streaming down her face. It begged the viewer to find out more.
Goodwin, a 13-year veteran of the Guard and Army Reserve, is the mother of one daughter, a junior at Frostburg State University in Maryland. In the picture, she doesn't look old enough to have a daughter in college. Her husband David, 42, is a Washington firefighter and a 20-year veteran of the Army Reserve. His unit has not been sent to Iraq, yet.
Sgt. Goodwin holds a master's degree in psychology. When she isn't driving an Army truck across Iraq's rocky, dusty and dangerous landscape, she is an administrator with Head Start - the early childhood education program for disadvantaged youngsters.
So the Goodwins, it is easy to see, devote nearly all of their lives to public service. And they do it with open hearts.
Goodwin, like anyone being shipped to a war zone, says she was apprehensive when she found out her unit was being sent to Iraq.
``But my unit is like my family. And if my family was going, I was going,'' she said. ``We knew we were going over there to do a job we were trained to do. So we went together and we came home together. And we got the job done.''
That job, at first, was to transport food, water and equipment to supply troops in the field. Her unit's motto: ``You Call, We Haul.''
But as the fighting escalated, the task shifted from strictly transportation to providing security for troops on the move and escorting private contractors delivering mail to U.S. soldiers. The unit relocated a combat support hospital to Baghdad and backstopped the 82nd Airborne on a search-and-destroy mission. As they went, they often came under rocket, small arms and mortar fire.
On one mail run, a truck struck a remote-detonated mine, killing one soldier and injuring two more. It was the unit's only fatality.
In sum, Goodwin's unit logged more than 564,000 mission miles, aided 1,200 combat missions, took part in raids that captured 600 prisoners and helped deliver 1.4 billion pounds of mail and packages from home.
Now for the picture: What prompted Goodwin's tears?
``We were singing a song that was our unit's spiritual song,'' she said. ``It is called `I Won't Complain.' It says that while there are rough times, there are good days, too. And the good outweigh the bad. I got caught up in it.''
Goodwin said she led her unit in the song at Sunday church services in Iraq and it brought back a flood of memories. Oh yes, she is a pastor at the True Way Deliverance Church and has been for 20 years.
Now that she is safely home, how does she feel about her service? In a word, ``proud.''
``We had a job to do and we did it. But the work goes on to help Iraq find its freedom. We're there and we should be.'' she said. ``We (in the United States) had to fight for our freedom. They have to do it, too.''
Goodwin was asked if Iraq ever will be able to establish a stable, democratic government.
``The commander in chief says it's possible and I support that. It won't happen in a month, but all things are possible,'' she said. ``... There's always hope.''