Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe *****

Economic Draft. Think about that. Economic Draft. The economic draft, prevalent during the Bush years, sent millions, yes millions, of soldiers to Iraq and Afghanistan. If you do not know anyone personally who was deployed, it is because the "volunteers" tended to be those with few other economic opportunities, and evidently your friends had other opportunities. That is the economic draft.

Soldier Girls by Helen Thorpe tells the stories from three women of the Indiana National Guard. Michelle Fischer was young and single. Debbie Fischer was over 40. Desma had three small children. They all found the military to be the best opportunity open to them.

All three women were in Afghanistan together and they managed to have some fun amid the violence and boredom.

One time Desma tried to order a Clydesdale to go with a big party. She also requisitioned hamburgers, hot dogs, and ten kegs of beer. That didn't work: no Clydesdale or beer, but they got the hamburgers and hot dogs, and a funny story to tell.

Another time, when the guys were arguing as guys do, two women when back to their quarters and
got this big old dildo ... They came back and slammed that thing down on the table. "Mine's bigger than all of your, so shut the f*$k up."
But is was not all fun. I found especially moving the discussions the mental impacts of being in combat, which seem to be similar to symptoms of aging. For example, having to keep notes of things that once could be simply remembered. However, these women were in their 20s and 30s, not their 60s and 70s.

Their stories are the stories of all soldiers: death, elation, boredom, PSTD, isolation, and close friendships. Thrope brings their stories to life with no judgement of the women or the country that sent them to war. This is a terrific history of a period that many people know too little about. If you never considered volunteering for the economic draft, you should at least read this to better appreciate those who did.

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