Introduction Part 2
The information in this book is limited to Yehudit’s experiences, observations, and connections and may or may not reflect military culture as a whole. However, her insights are profound and add tremendous value to our understanding of women’s growth and development within the Army ranks.
During a recent interview, she said:
“Thinking back, I cannot define the moment I became patriotic or when the ideals of American life and freedom became deeply embedded in my identity. Patriotism encompassed more than principles of liberty but being an American citizen endowed with opportunities unavailable to individuals in impoverished countries. I was born in a country and an era where freedom of speech, religion, the press, self-expression, and marital preference were all obtainable.
“For as long as I could remember, I believed that greatness came with hard work. Nothing is free. I thought it took blood, sweat, and tears for great people to do and become great things. Every obstacle meant opportunity for success, and every hardship meant opportunities for personal development and growth. I was born in one of the greatest countries in the world as long as I seized every opportunity to every minute count. Nonetheless, there were significant moments in history that led me down the path to serving my country in a military capacity.
“I remember on September 11, 2001; I was living comfortably and safely in a small town in Louisiana. I can still remember the day as though it happened yesterday. I awoke to a phone call from a girlfriend of mine named Precious who worked at a local gas station. With a mixture of English and Ebonics, she shouted, “Wake up! Girl, you gotta see wha goin’ own, own the TV! Girl, I’m so scairt nah. I ain’ nevu saw anythin’ like it in all my whole life.”
“Precious! What on earth are you talking about?”
“Girl tur’ own yo TV. Channel elevn!”
“I casually walked over to the television and turned it on and then flipped through the stations until I reached the local channel 11 News Station. Just as I had turned to the channel, I watched as Flight 175 crashed into the World Trade Center’s south tower in New York City. I stood motionless with the phone still pressed against my ear.
“You seein’ thi’?”
“I stood motionless and unable to speak. What seemed like hours, I stood frozen unsure what to say. I felt as thought all the blood drained from my body through my feet.
“Hello! Hello!” Precious shouted. “Girl answer me!”
“Yeah, Precious. I do. I see it. I don’t know what to say.”
“I cain’t get ahol’ of my cousin or my aunt.” She said crying. “They up there in New Yor’” She sobbed loudly. “I’m so scairt” she said.
“Hey girl. Look. It’s going to be okay. I am sure your family is safe. It is just going to take some time to get in touch with them soon.”
“The gap in time between the airplane crashing into the tower, watching men and women drop hundreds of feet to their death to escape the flames. I felt an eerie and dark cloud was over me. I looked down at my newborn son laying on his blanket on the floor and thought how finite and fragile life is. I turned to continue watching men and women jump from the burning buildings to their death, desperately trying to escape the flames. And then it happened. The first tower came crashing down and not long after, the second. What felt like hours, was only seventeen to twenty minutes. Another attack followed as a third plane crashed into the Pentagon, and a fourth unsuccessfully hit its target. The 9/11 terror attack was the beginning of a war against terrorism that has lasted more than ten years. Though I didn’t know anyone that lived in New York at the time of the 9/11 terror attack, it was, nonetheless, deeply personal and somehow caused the inner parts of my soul to quiver with fear. For weeks after the event, I was glued to the TV wondering about the events that led up to the attack. What was going on in the minds and hearts of those terrorists? What causes such tremendous hate for people? And what will America do? And although President Obama declared the war over on May 23, 2013, thousands of American troops still serve in the Middle East fighting against terrorism to this day.
“I cannot say that was that particular event that caused my thoughts to shift to what makes America so great and to consciously wake up each morning and thank my lucky stars morning for the opportunities I have as an American living in this particular time. But it planted a seed.
“One morning in 2002, I turned on the local news and saw an anchorman covering the story of a journalist who was beheaded by Al-Qaeda; Daniel Pearl who worked for the Wall Street Journal. The story was jolting, and my mind raced to unfathomable places of nightmares and terrors. I remember thinking that one of my greatest fears was not dying slowly from a disease but dying the way I saw David Pearl’s bloody murder publicized on the Internet. The story caused me once again to try to understand the war and who the enemy was. As the stories of war got closer to home, I would look my kids in the eyes and wonder about their future. The simple things like free education, freedom of speech and the freedom to believe what you want were things I began to understand were the least appreciated. I live in a country where being gay was relatively okay versus the Middle East where gays are executed. At the same time, there seemed to be a growing hatred for America even among Americans which was far more challenging for me to wrap my mind around.
“A few years after the war began, I moved to Colorado where I worked at various retail stores where I was exposed to the difficulties the Veterans faced after coming home from the war. I believe it was their struggle and hardship that both humbled me and helped me understand the tremendous cost of freedom. Although the war was far away, the tragedies of war were just as real here at home. It cost soldiers their families, marriages, and homes. The suicide rate among the Veteran population was growing, and PTSD became the new “terrifying disorder” that disqualified Veterans from employment. This disorder became the gateway to drug and alcohol dependencies and/or resulted in homelessness. The war was something I barely understood. I never spent much time thinking about war, military or psychological disorders that resulted from it until I joined six years after the war began. To me, the military was a world shrouded in strength, courage, and disciple.
“My fascination with the war caused me to join the Army Reserves in 2008. Not only did I feel like I was doing my part to secure my children’s future and help maintain many of the values that make America so great. It has also helped me understand the complexity of the war, terrorism and the delicate geopolitical balance that exists in the Middle East and with Israel. However, most importantly, it allowed me the opportunity to understand the military life and culture. I got to experience firsthand the difficulty Soldiers when going to war and coming home from war.
“I don’t believe anyone can escape trauma when they join the military during wartime whether or not they are in combat. There is something about war that touches every part of a soldier’s life; mine included.”