Monday, March 19, 2007


For your reading. Too many times when we talk about veterans we think men. Veterans do it and the public does it. Times have changed and we all need to recognize that women play a major part in our armed forces and that they need services and help as well. Thank you for serving. Please forward to others - This is a must read!... Joe Bello
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http://www.nytimes.


The Women’s War

Katy Grannan for The New York Times
Suzanne Swift Just before she was to leave for her second tour in Iraq, she told her mother: "I can't do this. I can't go back there."


By SARA CORBETT
Published: March 18, 2007



On the morning of Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, a 21-year-old Army specialist named Suzanne Swift went AWOL. Her unit, the 54th Military Police Company, out of Fort Lewis, Wash., was two days away from leaving for Iraq. Swift and her platoon had been home less than a year, having completed one 12-month tour of duty in February 2005, and now the rumor was that they were headed to Baghdad to run a detention center. The footlockers were packed. The company's 130 soldiers had been granted a weekend leave in order to go where they needed to go, to say whatever goodbyes needed saying. When they reassembled at 7 a.m. that Monday, uniformed and standing in immaculate rows, Specialist Swift, who during the first deployment drove a Humvee on combat patrols near Karbala, was not among them.


Swift would later say that she had every intention of going back to Iraq. But in the weeks leading up to the departure date, she started to feel increasingly anxious. She was irritable, had trouble sleeping at night, picked fights with friends, drank heavily. ''I was having a lot of little freakouts,'' she told me when I went to visit her in Washington State last summer. ''But I was also ready to go. I was like, 'O.K., I can do this.''


The weekend before the deployment was to start, however, Swift drove south to her hometown, Eugene, Ore., to visit with her mother and three younger siblings. The decision to flee, she says, happened in a split second on Sunday night. ''All my stuff was in the car,'' she recalls. ''My keys were in my hand, and then I looked at my mom and said: 'I can't do this. I can't go back there.' It wasn't some rational decision. It was a huge, crazy, heart-pounding thing.''
For two days after she failed to report, Swift watched her cellphone light up with calls from her commanders. They left concerned messages and a few angry ones too. She listened to the messages but did not return the calls. Then rather abruptly, the phone stopped ringing. The 54th MP Company had left for Iraq. Swift says she understood then the enormity of what she'd just done.


For the remainder of that winter, Swift hid out in the Oregon seaside town of Brookings, staying in a friend's home, uncertain whether the Army was looking for her. ''I got all my money out of the bank,'' she told me. ''I never used my credit card, in case they were trying to trace me. It was always hanging over my head.'' At her mother's urging, she drove back to Eugene every week to see a therapist. In April of last year, she finally moved back into her family's home. Then, on the night of June 11, a pair of local police officers knocked on the door and found Swift inside, painting her toenails with her 19-year-old sister. She was handcuffed, driven away and held in the county jail for two nights before being taken back to Fort Lewis, where military officials threatened to charge her with being absent without leave. As Army officials pondered her fate, Swift was assigned a room in the barracks and an undemanding desk job at Fort Lewis.
Despite the fact that military procedure for dealing with AWOL soldiers is well established - most are promptly court-martialed and, if convicted, reduced in rank and jailed in a military prison - Suzanne Swift's situation Read whole article