Helen Thorpe

  • Aired:  08/05/14
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Helen Thorpe describes the struggles of female members of the military who are the subject of her book "Soldier Girls: The Battles of Three Women at Home and at War." (6:11)

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]>> Jon: WELCOME BACK.

MY GUEST TONIGHT, AN AUTHOR.

HER NEW BOOK IS CALLED "SOLDIERGIRLS: THE BATTLES OF THREE

WOMEN AT HOME AND AT WAR."

PLEASE WELCOME TO THE PROGRAMHELEN THORPE.

HELLO.

HOW ARE YOU?

>> I'M GREAT. HOW ARE YOU?

>> Jon: NICE TO SEE YOU.

>> IT'S VERY NICE TO BE HERE.

THANK YOU.

>> Jon: THANK YOU FOR BEINGHERE.

>> IT'S MY PLEASURE.

>> Jon: WHAT A WONDERFUL BOOK.

"SOLDIER GIRLS."

YOU KNOW, WAR STORIES ARE SODIFFICULT TO TELL BENEATH THE

KIND OF THE TENT POST ORCARICATURED VISION...

>> YEAH.>> Jon: THAT PEOPLE HAVE FOR IT.

TO TELL THE STORY OF WOMEN ATWAR.

IT'S SUCH A DIFFERENT PLACE TOGO WITH IT.

>> RIGHT.

>> Jon: AND IT REALLY, THE BOOKFEELS VERY FRESH IN THAT WAY.

>> THANK YOU. THANK YOU.

>> Jon: HOW LONG DID YOU FOLLOWAND HOW DID YOU CHOOSE THE WOMEN

THAT YOU FOLLOWED?

>> SO I MET THEM FIRST IN 2010.

AND AT THAT POINT THEY HADALREADY DONE TWO TOURS OF DUTY

AND WERE BACK.

AND I SPOKE TO THEM.

ACTUALLY, FOR FOUR YEARS.

THE WHOLE PROJECT TOOK FOURYEARS.

SO THEY WENT THROUGH HOURS ANDHOURS AND HOURS OF INTERVIEWS

WITH ME.

>> Jon: VERY REVEALING.BY THE WAY...

>> YEAH.

>> Jon: THEIR COURAGE NOTONLY TO GO INTO THOSE WAR ZONES,

BUT IN THE WAY THEY DISCUSSTHEIR LIVES.

>> I THOUGHT THEY WEREINCREDIBLY BRAVE AND CANDID.

THEY SHARED WITH ME LETTERS ANDE-MAILS AND DIARIES, EVEN

THERAPY NOTES.

>> Jon: AND IT WAS INTERESTING,THEIR CHALLENGES WERE DIFFERENT.

>> YEAH.

>> Jon: YOU HAD ONE WOMAN WHOHAD THREE CHILDREN...

>> RIGHT.>> Jon: ANOTHER WHO WAS SINGLE.

>> YEAH.

>> Jon: ANOTHER WHO WAS GOING TOBE A GRANDMOTHER.

>> RIGHT.

>> Jon: I MEAN, THERE WASA, EVEN THOUGH THEY ALL

KNEW EACH OTHER...>> YEAH.

>> Jon: THEY COMEFROM VERY DIFFERENT PLACES.

>> RIGHT, REALLY DIFFERENT LIFESTAGES.

SO I MET THE YOUNGEST OF THETHREE WOMEN FIRST.

HER NAME IN THE BOOK IS MICHELLEFISHER. AND UM...

>> Jon: WHICH IS NOT HER NAME INTHE WORLD.

>> IT'S NOT HER REAL NAME. SHEASKED FOR A PSEUDONYM.

>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> AND ABOUT HALF THEINDIVIDUALS I INTERVIEWED

WANTED TO USE PSEUDONYMS. SOSHE, MICHELLE FISHER WAS 18 IN

THE SPRING OF 2001.

SHE DID NOT THINK OF HERSELF ASA SOLDIER OR SOMEBODY WHO WANTED

TO JOIN THE MILITARY, BUT HERMOM WAS ON AND OFF WELFARE AND

HER DAD WAS IN AND OUT OFPRISON, AND SHE REALLY WANTED TO

FIGURE OUT HOW COULD SHE GO TOCOLLEGE AND HAVE A DIFFERENT

KIND OF LIFE.

SHE DIDN'T WANT TO DO FACTORYWORK, WHICH IS WHAT WAS

AVAILABLE.

AND, SO SHE WALKED INTO THERECRUITING OFFICE FOR THE

NATIONAL GUARD AND SIGNED UPREALLY INTENDING TO BE A

PART-TIME SOLDIER.

AND THEN, WHEN SHE WAS INTRAINING, 9/11 HAPPENED, AND SHE

GOT RIGHT AWAY THAT HER LIFE WASGOING TO BE REALLY DIFFERENT.

>> Jon: I THOUGHT WHAT WAS MOSTINTERESTING ABOUT THIS IS IN THE

BOOKS THAT I'VE READ ABOUT MALEEXPERIENCE IN WAR, THERE'S A

CERTAIN CAMARADERIE THAT YOUNEVER GET BENEATH, BUT THIS

OPENS UP A DOOR TO THEINTERACTION BETWEEN SOLDIERS

THAT IS VERY DIFFERENT ANDFRAUGHT WITH A LOT MORE

COMPLICATION...>> YEAH.

>> Jon: IN TERMS OFINTERPERSONAL RELATIONSHIPS.

>> RIGHT.>> Jon: YOU KNOW, OUT OF

MARRIAGE RELATIONSHIPS,DRINKING.

LIKE, IT IS A LOT MORE...THERE'S A LOT MORE DEPTH TO IT.

>> SO THESE WOMEN WERE, YOUKNOW, DEPLOYED ON THESE MULTIPLE

LENGTHY DEPLOYMENTS, FIRST TOAFGHANISTAN, THEN TO IRAQ, AND

THE WORK THEY WERE DOING WASFIXING BROKEN AK-47S IN

AFGHANISTAN AS WEAPONS MECHANICSOR IN DESMA'S CASE, WHEN

SHE'S IN IRAQ, DRIVING A GUN TRUCK AT THE FRONT OF A

SUPPLY CONVOY. AND THEN TORELIEVE THE STRESS THAT THEY

WERE UNDER FROM THESE, YOU KNOW,LENGTHY DEPLOYMENTS AT

HOME, FEELING ISOLATED ANDLONELY TWO OF THE WOMEN DID

HAVE AFFAIRS WITH MEN WHO WEREMARRIED WHO WERE THEIR

COLLEAGUES, AND ONE WOMAN ENDSUP DRINKING.

SHE WANTS A COCKTAIL AT THE ENDOF EVERY DAY AND SHE ENDS UP

RELYING ON ALCOHOL TO SORT OFGET HER THROUGH THE DEPLOYMENT.

>> Jon: AND IT WAS INTERESTING,TOO, BECAUSE THEY WERE

YOU KNOW, THEY'RE A BIT OF ARARE COMMODITY OVER THERE,

SO THERE'S THIS IDEA THAT THEMALES ARE KIND OF

FIGHTING FOR THEIR ATTENTION...>> YEAH.

>> Jon: IN WAYS WANTED BUT ALSOUNWANTED,

AND IT SHOWS THE DIFFICULTY THEYHAVE IN HAVING TO NAVIGATE EVEN

FORGET ABOUT THEENEMY ENVIRONMENT...

>> RIGHT.>> Jon: THEIR OWN ENVIRONMENT.

>> YEAH.

SO BECAUSE THEY'RE SERVING IN AMIXED-GENDER BATTALION, THE

RATIO IS LIKE 2-1 ROUGHLY INTHEIR OWN BATTALION,

>> Jon: RIGHT.>> MEN TO WOMEN.

BUT THEY'RE ON A MILITARY POSTALONGSIDE OF ALL-MALE

INFANTRY SOLDIERS OR FOREIGNSOLDIERS FROM DIFFERENT

COUNTRIES THAT ARE ALL MALE, SOTHE RATIO ON THE POST ITSELF IS

EVEN MORE SKEWED MANY MORE MENTO WOMEN, AND THEY ARE SCARCE

COMMODITY.

THE YOUNGEST IN THE BOOK, THEYOUNGEST WOMAN, MICHELLE, IS

FINDING THAT EVERYWHERE SHEGOES, THE MEN ARE READING THE

NAME TAG ON HER ARMY UNIFORM ANDCALLING OUT TO HER BY NAME AS IF

THEY KNOW HER, SO FROM THEMOMENT SHE LEAVES HER TENT UNTIL

SHE GETS BACK TO HER TENT ATNIGHT, IT'S NON-STOP ATTENTION.

AND THEN YOU HAVE DEBBIE, WHO IS30 YEARS OLDER, SHE'S IN HER

EARLY 50S, AND SHE'S LOOKING ONTHINKING, WOW, IT'S A LONG TIME

SINCE I GOT THAT KIND OFATTENTION AND SHE'S NOT GETTING

QUITE THAT SORT OF ATTENTION,AND YOU CAN SEE IT

FROM DIFFERENT VANTAGE POINTSDEPENDING ON THEIR AGE.

>> Jon: RIGHT. YEAH, THAT'S,

THAT'S WHAT'S INCREDIBLE ABOUTIT. AND IT GIVES A VIEW

ALMOST FROM A 180 OF WHAT WE'REACCUSTOMED TO.

AND, IT'S A VERY VALUABLEADDITION IN THAT WAY IT SEEMS.

>> THANK YOU. THANK YOU.

>> Jon: WELL, THANK YOU FORCOMING ON.

>> PLEASURE. >> Jon: AND SHARING IT WITH US.

HAVE THE WOMEN READ IT? HAVETHEY?

>> I ACTUALLY GAVE THEM THEMANUSCRIPT BEFORE IT WAS

PUBLISHED SO THEY COULD READ IT.>> Jon: OH OK.

>> I WANTED... YOU KNOW, IT'SWORK OF JOURNALISM.

IT WASN'T LIKE AN AUTHORIZEDBIOGRAPHY OR ANYTHING LIKE THAT.

>> Jon: SURE.>> BUT I WANTED THEM TO READ IT

AND KNOW WHAT WASCOMING OUT, AND I WANTED TO HEAR

THEIR THOUGHT, SO YEAH, THEYENDORSED THE PROJECT.

>> Jon: OH, THEY DID.

SO IT'S NOT LIKE THEY READ ITAND WENT LIKE, I WILL NEVER

SPEAK WITH YOU AGAIN.[LAUGHTER].

>> NO. THEY READ IT AND, THEYREAD IT AND EACH OF THEM HAD

SOME CONCERN ABOUT SOME FAMILYMEMBER WHERE THEY HAD TOLD ME

SOMETHING REVEALING ABOUT THEIRDAUGHTER OR THEIR BOYFRIEND...

>> Jon: OH, RIGHT, RIGHT, RIGHT.>> AND THEN THEY WANTED

TO PROTECT OTHER PEOPLE...>> Jon: RIGHT.

>> BUT THEY SAID ALL THIS STUFFI TOLD

YOU ABOUT MYSELF, YEP, THAT'STHE WAY IT HAPPENED.

>> Jon: WOW.

THAT'S TERRIFIC.

DO YOU GUYS STILL GET TOGETHER?

>> YES. YES.

>> Jon: OH, THAT'S NICE.

>> AND MICHELLE FISHER HAS ACRUSH ON YOU.

>> Jon: MICHELLE FISHER HAS ACRUSH ON ME?

>> YEAH. [CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

>> Jon: [SING SONGS]:AND I KNOW WHAT'S IN HER DIARY.

[LAUGHTER]WELL, THANK YOU VERY MUCH FOR

COMING AND SHARING THE STORY.>> THANK YOU.

>> Jon: "SOLDIER GIRLS" IS ONTHE BOOKSHELVES NOW.

HELEN THORPE, THANK YOU SO MUCH.

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