Though it would be easy to read “Soldier Girls” as antiwar, it does not present the kind of narrative in which everything points neatly in the same direction; Debbie sees her time in Afghanistan and Iraq as the highlight of her life, and Desma says that in certain ways, “life is easier in a combat zone; it’s simplified.”Their sex lives are also anything but traditional:
One of the biggest surprises of the book, Thorpe says, “was the amount of sex and the number of relationships” the women had, though those stories only came out slowly, over time.This reminded me of a military woman I worked with recently, who is married but lives a thousand miles from her husband and child and regularly disappears for weeks at a time for training or other assignments. I am enough of a conservative to wonder if this is really the best sort of system for raising children. And then there is the perennial question of what war does to the people who experience it:
Soldiers in their unit routinely opt not to visit home in mid-deployment, even when they can, because it’s so rough on them and their families when they have to leave again a few days later. The cost that Desma’s children paid for her service was awfully high even before she was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq. And “the hardest thing about a deployment is coming home,’’ she tells me, because “we’re definitely different people” at that point.There are things about our world that worry me because they are genuinely new, and therefore have consequences we can hardly guess at. One of these is our determined effort to break down all barriers between men's and women's work, extending even to the trade of soldiering. (Internet-intensified global financial capitalism is another.) It puzzles me that contemporary American conservatives worry much more about things that strike me as side-issues, like gay marriage and Obamacare, than the really big changes taking place around us. The way the American working class is shedding the gender roles, marriage practices, sexual mores, and other assumptions of previous generations is a big deal, and we could use a lot more thoughtful discussion about where this is going and what we should do to help people, especially children, survive these changes.