My book for the week is The Girls Come Marching Home: Stories of Women Warriors Returning from the War in Iraq by Kirsten Hoimstedt. It’s been a difficult book to read because, though it’s a different war than mine, the same issues are there. The books contains stories about women soldiers who have been wounded, experienced post traumatic stress syndrome, or have been sexually harassed. The book is a unique look into what life is like for a woman in the military and made me think about what it was like to be a soldier (Desert Shield/Storm 1990-1991).
Once a soldier deploys to a war zone — “Boots on the Ground” — she is in a different world. She is surrounded by 20, 30, or 100 people she will see every single day and night. She might be the only woman in the company, or at least one of the few. That’s her entire world.
The Army teaches soldiers to rely on their squad leaders and platoon sergeants, and to turn to them for help. It’s one of the first things we learn in basic training and continues into active duty.
But war changes people.
Sometimes for the better.
Sometimes for the worse.
Then something goes wrong, and the soldier’s world shrinks to a world of one. Here, in the civilian world, if something happens, there’s a lot of options. But when in the middle of the desert, the only option becomes somehow surviving.
Then someone looks at the soldier when she returns and says, “You grew up.” Looks at another soldier who was torn apart. “She grew down.”
Do you know a female soldier, sailor, or marine? Tell me about her. And don’t forget to pick up a copy of The Girls Come Marching Home and Kirsten Holmstedt’s earlier book Band of Sisters.
I hope you’ll have a look at my story Grateful for a Gift to ‘Any Soldier,’ published in The Washington Post.