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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 April, 2004, 23:06 GMT 00:06 UK
Soldier-sisters opt out of Iraq
Michelle, Rachel and Charity Witmer
The Witmer sisters all served in the Wisconsin National Guard
The soldier-sisters of an American servicewoman killed in Iraq have chosen not to return to action.

Rachel and Charity Witmer said it was "by far the most difficult decision we have ever made".

They were offered non-combat jobs after their sister Michelle was killed in an ambush on 9 April.

They expressed fears that if they rejoined the Wisconsin National Guard in Iraq, the increased attention could put their fellow soldiers at risk.

The women said the adjutant general in Wisconsin had advised them to seek reassignment outside 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," they said in a statement.

The policy of the Pentagon is that when a soldier is killed while serving in a hostile area, other family members in the military may request a non-combat assignment.

Rachel is 24 and serves with the 32nd Military Police Company, as did Michelle.

Charity - Michelle's twin - is a sergeant and medic with the 118th Medical Battalion.

Michelle, 20, was killed when her Humvee jeep came under fire in Baghdad.

After the sisters had returned from Iraq for her funeral, their father, John, said they should not have to go back to Iraq.

"I can't live another year like I've lived this one," he said.

The Witmer family lives in New Berlin, Wisconsin, near Milwaukee.


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