The Lonely Solider vividly tells the stories of several military women who served in Iraq-and of the challenges they faced from warfare, discrimination, and their own consciences. A heartbreaking picture of the sacrifices women soldiers are making for this country, The Lonely Solider has already spurred reform in the military's handling of sexual assault and the rights of women soldiers.
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One: The Lonely Soldier
Excerpted from "The Lonely Soldier"
Copyright © 2010 Helen Benedict.
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Table of Contents
1 The Lonely Soldier 1
Part 1 Before
2 From Girl to Soldier: Life before the Military 13
3 They Break You Down, Then Build You Back Up Mickiela Montoya 37
4 They Told Us We Were Going to Be Peacekeepers Jennifer Spranger 57
5 The Assault Was Just One Bad Person, but It Was a Turning Point for Me Abbie Pickett 65
6 These Morons Are Going to Get Us Killed Terris Dewalt-Johnson 73
7 This War Is Full of Crazy People Eli PaintedCrow 79
Part 2 War
8 It's Pretty Much Just You and Your Rifle Jennifer Spranger 93
9 You're Just Lying There Waiting to See Who's Going to Die Abbie Pickett 123
10 You Become Hollow, Like a Robot Eli Painted Crow 149
11 I Wasn't Carrying the Knife For the Enemy, I Was Carrying It for the Guys on My Own Side Mickiela Montoya 163
12 Mommy, Love You. Hope You Don't Get Killed in Iraq Terris Dewalt-Johnson 177
Part 3 After
13 Coming Home 197
14 Fixing the Future 223
Appendix A Military Ranks and Organization 233
Appendix B Where to Find Help 235
What People are Saying About This
"The Lonely Soldier tells an important and often ignored story about our military women. Benedict writes with skill and compassion, helping us understand what it feels like to be a women soldier in Iraq. I recommend this book to everyone who cares about our soldiers."--(Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia and Seeking Peace)
"It's outrageously immoral that our female soldiers have to fear many of the male soldiers they serve with, as well as being let down by the very Veterans Affairs system that's supposed to help them out. Thanks to Helen Benedict, the world is watching!"--(Roseanne Barr, Emmy Award-winning actor)
"Once again, Helen Benedict reports what others sweep under the rug, and reveals a pattern where others see random events. The Lonely Soldier will shock you and enrage you and bring you to tears. It's must reading for everyone who cares about women, justice, fairness, the military, and the United States."--(Katha Pollitt, award-winning columnist, the Nation)
"It is hard to determine what is most disturbing about this book-the devious and immoral tactics used by leaders and recruiters to get women to join the military, the terrible poverty and personal violence women were escaping that led them to be vulnerable to such manipulation, the raping and harassing of women soldiers by their superiors and comrades once they got to Iraq, or the untreated homelessness, illnesses, and madness that have haunted [these] women since they came home. The Lonely Soldier is an important book, a crucial accounting of the shameful war on women who gave their bodies, lives, and souls for their country."--(Eve Ensler, playwright, performer, activist, and author of The Vagina Monologues)
"As a 29-year army and Army Reserve colonel, I urge everyone-especially women considering joining the U.S. military-to read this important book. Through unforgettable stories, The Lonely Soldier explains the shocking frequency of sexual assault and what can be done."--(Army Reserve Colonel Ann Wright)
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
If you still harbor any starry-eyed illusions about the Iraq war as a noble endeavor, or of the military as a welcoming place for women, this book will dispel them. Focusing largely on the experiences of a fairly diverse group (two white, one Mexican-American, one African-American, one Native American, all, of course, working class, all sergeants or lower) of 5 women, with additional side stories from other women, it describes a war that was characterized by incompetence and stunning callousness, fought by women who were told they were too fragile and flakey to go into combat, but who were put into combat situations nonetheless--both against the "enemy" and against their own brothers-in-arms. Stories of women in the US military like to focus on back-patting feel-good tales of patriotic women who overcome obstacles, not least of which is their own femaleness, to be accepted as the equals of men and serve in elite units or the officer corps. Benedict's subjects, however, are mainly women who signed up for murky motives, like escaping an abusive family situation at home, and ended up in low-ranking, low-prestige positions. Several of them were reservists in the National Guard and had no expectation of ever being deployed in a war oversees, with the more idealistic among them hoping to help out during natural disasters and things like that, and the rest hoping to get career training and money for college. Instead what they got was lengthy deployments to a war they didn't believe in, an experience that left them physically and emotionally shattered, with their problems ignored and discounted upon their return home, since after all, women don't go into combat and aren't "real" soldiers. One could criticize this book for only showing the most negative side of the military life and women's experiences in it. All of the women Benedict features were subjected to extensive harassment, and some of them were raped by their own men. She does say that women's experiences vary tremendously depending on what environment they find themselves in, with the medical corps, for example, which is almost 40% female, a largely harassment-free zone and a comparatively welcoming place for women. These soldiers, however, most of whom were drivers and prison guards, were one of very women in their units, and found themselves sharing sleeping and bathroom facilities with their mainly hostile male "comrades," who mocked them and denigrated their abilities while assigning them to particularly dirty or dangerous tasks. The women are all surprised, in retrospect, at how accepting they were of this treatment: indeed, one of the more interesting if alarming points the book makes is how people are habituated to mistreatment, of themselves by others and of others by themselves, by their military training. Most of the women accept the dehumanization of boot camp and the terrible conditions they found themselves in, as well as the constant sexual harassment; the only thing that provokes real outrage is the racism that the women of color experience, although their indignation on their own behalf does not necessarily prevent them from tossing around racial slurs and treating the Iraqis exactly as they themselves do not want to be treated.
As a former female Marine, I thought it was right on, the good and the bad. I totally related to the experiences and was absorbed in the stories. Great read, recommend the younger female military personnel read to see how WE paved the way for them today.