“Disclaimer”: I have a mix of 22 years of active duty and Army National Guard Military service. I retired off the Guard side 6+ years ago. When I’m 60, I’ll collect a military pension. End of disclaimer.
Having served as a woman in the military in both peacetime and during times of conflict (both Gulf Wars and during times of numerous peacekeeping missions), I’ve experienced a lot personally and I’ve seen a lot. I’ve served with some great people from all branches, male and female, gay and straight, black, white, Latino, and Asian and from all walks of life. Being a woman, I struggled when I originally entered the Army with a service that was nearly 90% male and only just coming to terms with women serving in Non-commissioned Officer (NCO) and leadership roles as officers. Women banded together and formed bonds for friendship, protection and support.
As time passed, especially after the 1st Gulf War, women became more integrated into military service – more jobs opened to them. Along with more career paths, women gained the ability to rise higher in the rank structure. More women were allowed in as Congress relaxed percentage restrictions and recruiters could begin counting female recruits equally/nearly equally to male recruits (females back in the day equaled 1/2 a male in the world of recruiting quotas). As older men began to age out and retire from military service they were replaced by younger men with more accepting attitudes toward women in the work force, in the military and toward women in positions of authority.
Through all of this, especially in the place of frequent troop deployments into military “hot zones”, women continue to seek out each other and form bonds even stronger than the camaraderie so often attributed to their male counterparts. These types of bonds are documented in the 2008 book, Band of Sisters: American Women at War in Iraq by author Kirsten Holmstedt.
Now, there are two distinct schools of thought on this book. Many think that it leans heavily toward female Marines and that it contains too much opinion and paraphrasing by Holmstedt and not enough of the women’s own words. Others, and especially those who have been there and done that, rave about the book. Count me among the latter group. It’s an honest portrayal of almost all aspects of what it’s like to be a woman in military service.
I said “almost” didn’t I? Military service attracts a higher percentage of lesbian women than are found in the mainstream. It’s a lifestyle that appeals to women of the LGBT community for many reasons. Addressing that isn’t the aim of this book but the theme is there. Keep in mind that this was published before the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (DADT). Though gays in combat areas are more readily integrated, as every single body on the team is needed to do the job at hand, it was still a dangerous proposition to out yourself even privately let alone for a book for mass publication.
I would say one other thing to Holmstedt’s detractors with regards to her “paraphrasing” and summarizing: Please try to understand that all soldiers are under strict orders often times about what they can and cannot say publicly whether it is about military activities or even the giving of their own, personal opinion on many topics. If Holmstedt wanted military women to talk with her openly and honestly, she had to afford them the veil of anonymity that they needed. Nuff said!
I LOVE the book!