By Helen Benedict
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Additional info for The Lonely Soldier: The Private War of Women Serving in Iraq
Every Memorial Day, he would take her to the parade and point out the female soldiers. “Look at those women there,” he’d say. ” He talked often about how he had wanted to go to Viet- 26 the lonely soldier nam when he was young but had been prevented because the war ended just as he finished high school. This filled Jen with a longing to realize his ambitions for him. “I knew ever since I was twelve that I was going to join the army. ” She told me all this in her childhood home in a housing development just outside Racine, Wisconsin, a small industrial town on Lake Michigan surrounded by open fields.
This went on for two years. One night, when she was sixteen, she was driving with friends to a local youth center when a gunfight broke out in front of her car. Too drunk and disoriented to know what to do, she sat there helplessly until a teenaged boy pulled her to safety. He was nineteen, a handsome Mayo Indian named Joe. She and Joe became friends, then lovers. Seeing a way out of her nightmarish life, Eli took her baby and ran off with him. But before long, he too turned abusive. “He put me in this immigrant housing place that was literally a shack, with two windows and boards that made a table that were attached to the wall.
This filled Jen with a longing to realize his ambitions for him. “I knew ever since I was twelve that I was going to join the army. ” She told me all this in her childhood home in a housing development just outside Racine, Wisconsin, a small industrial town on Lake Michigan surrounded by open fields. She wasn’t home when I arrived to meet her, so I took the opportunity to look around. When her family had moved there, the housing development had been brand new, but twelve years later it still looked as bland as if it had just been built, its trees short and spindly, its houses painted in washed-out colors.