We began with the soldiers: Sentiment had shifted by then, and a poll had just been released showing that the majority of soldiers were now highly critical of why and how the war was being fought. A week later, she asked another superior where to report for duty. When the order came down that she faced redeployment, Spc Swift was resigned at first. Less than a year later, she was on her way to Kerbala, in southern Iraq, one of three women troops in her company.
She said the harassment became unrelenting. I included a variety of ranks, from privates up to a general; all military branches except the Coast Guard; and soldiers on active duty as well as those in the reserves and the National Guard. From all these women, I chose to feature five whose stories best reflected the various experiences of female soldiers in Iraq, although I have included the stories of others as well. In the end, I interviewed some forty soldiers and veterans for this book, most of them women. We began with the soldiers: On a blustery night in March , I joined a small crowd in New York City to honor the citizens and soldiers who had died in the first year of the Iraq War. Lori Ann Piestewa, Spc Swift did not report the harassment. This was particularly true of soldiers in medical units. Among women serving in Iraq at the time, 80 percent said they thought the United States should withdraw within a year, and among men, Officially, the Pentagon says there are 4, troops absent without leave. The soldier says the mistreatment began soon after she enlisted at 19, lulled by the assurances of her recruiters that she would never find herself in a war zone. Less than a year later, she was on her way to Kerbala, in southern Iraq, one of three women troops in her company. And most of the people who are dying in this war are civilians. And soon I was listening to all sorts of female soldiers from all over the country who wanted to tell their stories. We''re being sent into war without body armor or decent vehicles to protect us. In what is believed to be the first case of a female soldier refusing to serve because she feared sexual harassment, Suzanne Swift, 21, a specialist with the 54th military police company, told the Guardian she did not join her unit when it left for a second tour of duty in Iraq because it meant a return to a regime of harassment. Spc Swift now says that that relationship, which lasted three months, was coerced, and that she was threatened with being sent on dangerous assignments. Sentiment had shifted by then, and a poll had just been released showing that the majority of soldiers were now highly critical of why and how the war was being fought. I first saw Mickiela in November , standing silently in the back of a Manhattan classroom while a group of male veterans spoke to a small audience. She was returned to Fort Lewis, Washington, where a spokesman, Joe Hitt, said she could face desertion charges. She later began a sexual relationship with a superior. Once American names had been read, a young man took the microphone and read the names of some of the many thousands of Iraqis who had been killed thus far: Above all, they wanted people to know what it is like to be a woman at war. Soon after her arrival in Kuwait in February , Spc Swift was propositioned. Soldiers' advocates believe the true number of deserters is far higher.
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