Sunday, January 11, 2015

Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe


There is a lot about female American soldiers in today's news. Commanding officers and administrators are being called onto the carpet for sexual assaults that are occuring. Female soldiers have been kidnapped and then released and also participate in atrocities (think Abu Ghraib). Women's roles in the military are also subjected to much debate - will they be allowed into combat? But in the midst of all this discussion, the actual individual women and their motivations are forgotten - they are nameless, faceless and storyless. Who are they? Why are they there? In this book, Helen Thorpe seeks to answer that question by following the stories of three very different women as they serve in the national guard.

All three women enlisted in the National Guard before September 11, 2001 and all seemed to hope that the enlistment would help them to improve their stations in life. Michelle Fischer, the youngest, was from a dysfunctional family and wanted to use the national guard to go to school. Desma Brooks had children, was impulsive and joined on a dare. Debbie helton was the oldest and became a grandmother while she had been deployed. The women drilled on weekends, were grateful for the extra paycheck and went on with their civilian lives. When 9/11 happened, a lot of men and women were deployed including the three women that Thorpe followed. This book detailed the deployments and the relationships that the women experienced. It covered everything from deployments and their returns to the experiences that the women had while deployed, including the relationships they experienced with fellow soldiers and commanding officers (even though that's a huge no no).

What I loved about this book was how accessible it made the experiences and the questions that it raised about the ever changing role of the military, the roles of women in society and the military in particular and the struggles that our society has with it. It became readily apparent that women and men experience military life and deployment differently and raised tremendous questions about how we and the military must deal with those. Love it and highly recommend this book.

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