When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans

When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans

When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans

When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans

Synopsis

While women are officially barred from combat in the American armed services, in the current war, where there are no front lines, the ban on combat is virtually meaningless. More than in any previous conflict in our history, American women are engaging with the enemy, suffering injuries, and even sacrificing their lives in the line of duty.

When Janey Comes Marching Home juxtaposes forty-eight self-posed photographs by Sascha Pflaeging with oral histories collected by Laura Browder to provide a dramatic portrait of women at war. Women from all five branches of the military share their stories here--stories that are by turns moving, comic, thought-provoking, and profound. Seeing their faces in stunning color photographic portraits and reading what they have to say about loss, comradeship, conflict, and hard choices will change the ways we think about women and war.

Serving in a combat zone is an all-encompassing experience that is transformative, life-defining, and difficult to leave behind. By coming face-to-face with women veterans, we who are outside that world can begin to get a sense of how the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have their lives and how their stories may ripple out and influence the experiences of all American women.

The book accompanies a photography exhibit of the same name opening May 1, 2010, at the Women in Military Service to America Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery, and continuing to travel around the country through 2011.
While women are officially barred from combat in the American armed services, in the current war, where there are no front lines, the ban on combat is virtually meaningless. More than in any previous conflict in our history, American women are engaging with the enemy, suffering injuries, and even sacrificing their lives in the line of duty.

Serving in a combat zone is an all-encompassing experience that is transformative, life-defining, and difficult to leave behind. By coming face-to-face with women veterans, we who are outside that world can begin to get a sense of how the long wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have their lives and how their stories may ripple out and influence the experiences of all American women.

Excerpt

The first time I heard a woman describe her deployment in glowing terms, I was taken aback. Marine Colonel Jenny Holbert told me that being in charge of public affairs for the second battle of Fallujah was “probably one of the biggest events of my life, other than birthing two children.” I thought, cynically, that this enthusiasm was all part of her role as a public affairs officer. It took me a while to understand how compelling the experience of being in a combat zone could be for the women I talked with.

Colonel Holbert’s enthusiasm for deployment was only one of many surprises I encountered over the course of the fifty-two interviews I did with women soldiers, sailors, coasties, airmen, and marines across the eastern seaboard. Originally, photographer Sascha Pflaeging and I had conceived of our collaboration as a way of hearing the stories and showing the faces of some of the first large cohort of women—over 221,000 as of this writing —who had served in the American military in Iraq, Afghanistan, and surrounding regions.

This is a far greater number than have served in any previous war in which the American military was deployed. Although a handful of women served in the Revolutionary and Civil Wars, they had to cross-dress to do so. The 35,000 women deployed in War World I worked mainly as telephone operators and in other positions far from the front lines. Although almost 400,000 served in World War II, mostly in the Army and Navy Auxiliary Corps (WAC and WAVES), these women were barred from wielding weapons. The 7,500 women who were deployed in the Vietnam War served primarily as nurses.

However, the changes in the American military over the last several decades, including the end of the draft in 1973 and the beginning of the all-volunteer force, have dramatically in-

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