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Arts & Culture
Thu July 12, 2007
"Band of Sisters" - Kirsten Holmstedt
By George Olsen
New Bern, NC – INTRO - With each American war, the issue of women in combat is raised. And with each war, the number of American women in combat goes up. For example, the Center for Defense Information says more than 40,000 women served in the first Gulf War. To date, more than 167,000 women have served in the current Iraq war and Afghanistan. A new book by Jacksonville author Kirsten Holmstedt looks past the debate to show what roles women are currently filling in today's military. George Olsen has more.
Kirsten Holmstedt's book Band of Sisters was born part of necessity she was an MFA student in creative non-fiction writing at UNC-Wilmington, whose requirements include writing a book to complete the program but more of the considerations many people pondered after the events of 9-11.
02:19 Part of the concept of starting this book was how I would do if 9/11 was 20 years ago and when I was a young female would I have enlisted and part of my I just wondered if I would enlist and how I would do in combat.
That initial thought evolved to wondering how the current group of women serving in Iraq was handling their duties. So she started seeking them out, and found herself surprised at how many different roles they were playing, which brought the question of women's roles in the military to mind and which she quickly brushed off.
00:30 There was a debate about women in combat, should women be in combat, and I wanted to take that debate off Capitol Hill and put it on the battlefield. I thought it was silly that people were debating whether women should be in combat when they were in combat and performing and performing well. After working on the book for awhile, I thought the debate was over.
Band of Sisters profiles 12 women in all branches of the military doing a variety of jobs in a variety of situations often deep in the fight.
21:25-22:43(Read from page 20) Captain Sean O'Neill came into just taken a man's life.
The story of Marine Lance Corporal Carrie Blais is told amongst those of an Air Force squadron commander, a Navy Flight Deck crew member, an Army medic the many roles Holmstedt found women were filling roles that at first surprised her.
02:19 A female driving a truck, well, anyone driving a truck, but driving a truck in the evening when you can't see insurgents, you can't see IEDs, that's terrifying to me, so any pre-conceived notions I might have had that women are doing that. They're dropping bombs. They're firing missiles, and I had no idea what they're doing over there, and I applaud them.
Those roles are putting them in harms way as well. Holmstedt states that as of May 84 women have been killed and around 500 wounded since operations in Iraq and Afghanistan began. Among them was an Army Sergeant injured in the hallmark method of Iraqi insurgents
07:53-09:30 (Read from page 283) The day after a an overexposed frame of film. (
10:15 That scene I just described she had probably seen this video about 20 times and still I could feel her jump behind me when she saw the explosion. I had to proceed with caution. The same thing I had to do with everyone else is establish their trust, just really listen, and get to know them. This wasn't a reporter going in, getting the story and leaving. I spent a few days there at Fort Campbell and I think she realized that I was really sincere about telling her story and I didn't go into this book with a personal agenda. The only agenda I had was to show their accomplishments and sacrifices.
For many Americans, when women in the military are discussed, the first name that comes to mind is Jessica Lynch the Army PFC who later disputed the story of her supposed heroism when her convoy was ambushed in 2003.
28:17 It was no fault of Jessica Lynch that she ended up being this poster girl for the Army when she got lost over there. But one of the reasons why I wrote this book was Jessica Lynch wasn't enough for me. I had this feeling, I don't think I knew at the time, but I had this feeling that with so many women going over to Iraq they were doing a lot of great things. The experiences in this book are far more representative of what the women are doing over there.
For Holmstedt, representative of the women there might best be exemplified by this passage from the profile of Navy Lieutenant Estella Salinas, who served as a nurse with a surgical company in Iraq.
17:58-18:31(Read from page 281) When Salinas was preparing person in that million.
Band of Sisters by Kirsten Holmstedt is published by Stackpole Books. I'm George Olsen.