Mrs. Herring accepted the role and thrust herself wholeheartedly, learning all she could about the Pakistan culture and training villagers how to build cottage businesses for textiles and rugs. During this time, she developed a close relationship with President Zia -ul-Haq of Pakistan, who would later enlighten Mrs. Herring about the threat by the Red Army following the Soviet Invasion. It was at this point that Joanne Herring, her son Robin, and video producer Mr. Fawcett embarked on their 1980 fateful trip. Based on the geopolitical realities at the time, it was clear to Mrs. Herring that after the Soviets had invaded Afghanistan, their next venture would be to seek control of Pakistan’s warm water ports, and this would make Straits of Hormuz easily accessible. If the Soviets were victorious in sinking some ships there, they could have easily paralyzed the U.S. economy. Nobody had this information in America since no one cared a lot about Afghanistan. People in Washington thought Afghanistan to be no more than a land of inconsequential rocky mountains.
Shortly after returning to America, another twist of fate occurred. She lost her husband to lung cancer, and after the mourning period was over, she got involved with Charlie Wilson from Texas better known as “Good Time Charlie” due to his hard-drinking and partying lifestyle. Even under the Reagan administration, America preferred not to have an open dispute with Moscow. Consequently, Charlie Wilson, Mrs. Herring, and the head of the CIA established a covert op. The U.S., British, French, and Middle Eastern governments all took part in this clandestinely. The covert op significantly changed the course of the war. The three sneaked in weapons using the Afghan-Pakistan border. Once they did, the mujahideen soldiers could shoot down Hind helicopters down using their shoulder-held missiles, stripping the Soviets of their aerial advantage that was of critical importance in the mountain-filled country.
It was these anti-Soviet Islamic armies, together with their foreign aids, such as Osama Bin Laden, that would later become Al Qaeda, the terrorist organization responsible for the 9/11 attacks in Manhattan. Joanne Herring has dismissed claims that her actions were responsible for the creation of Al Qaeda. The objective at the time was to defeat the Soviets, which they did. After defeating the war and leaving Afghanistan, she couldn’t have predicted that extremist groups could exploit the Palestinians.
Joanne Herring and Charlie Wilson are no longer together but still maintain a close friendship. Joanne Herring later married her 3rd husband Lloyd Davis but the couple divorced in 2005
Mrs. Herring started Marshall Plan Charities in 2009, to complement the continuing U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan by swiftly and efficiently bringing civilian life back to normal from one village to another. The organization combines the efforts of several NGOs focusing on the people in Afghanistan to provide the villages with healthcare, food, clean water, schools, and jobs.
As far as the books of history are concerned, one thing is for sure- Joanne Herring’s name has been written with indelible ink. Her life story has inspired people for many decades and will continue to do so for decades to come.