For female soldiers, last battle is within

By Mark Curnutte – Cincinnati Enquirer
Posted : Saturday May 23, 2009 17:56:33 EDT
They are just a fistful of the 200,000 female troops thrust into battle — intentionally or not — in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Spc. Angela Strittholt, Army Reserve Spc. Jennifer Wells, Lt. Col. Iva Griggs and Spc. Laura Seaman are among those female troops who have came home with problems once reserved for fighting men.

They arrive with physical injuries such as paralysis, lost limbs and bad backs. They develop mental health issues, as seemingly benign as sleeplessness and as potentially debilitating as post-traumatic stress disorder, which the Veterans Affairs Department reports that up to 40 percent of veterans — regardless of gender — have or develop during their lives.

In many cases, they fought in wars with no battle lines and a sense of not knowing who the enemy is.

Strittholt, in two yearlong tours of duty in Iraq as a truck driver, shot at snipers and twice had bombs hit her convoy — once under the Humvee directly in front of her as she hauled an ammunition trailer. Now home, she struggles with anger and has bad dreams that she will be sent to Iraq a third time.

A fellow soldier raped Wells in Iraq. Back from the war, she now struggles to trust people.

Griggs, an Army Reserve nurse working in Baghdad, carried a handgun with her into the shower because she feared she would be raped by one of the Iraqi or Turkish civilian contractors on her base. Fifteen months later and far from the sounds of war, she is over-sensitive to loud noises and wakes without fail at 3 a.m., unable to go back to sleep.

Seaman processed detainees at Baghdad’s infamous Abu Ghraib Prison and defended it when insurgents attacked. Today, she is too busy raising her three children, working and caring for her husband’s combat-related disorder to deal with lingering psychological wounds — what her husband says is his wife’s own case of PTSD.

The emotional baggage these women bring home is no surprise.


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