There is a particular group of soldiers and veterans who largely go unrecognized and underappreciated. That would be our women in uniform. To change that, I’ve decided to do a “Ladies of Liberty” series, in which I ask many of our heroines who have served, or who are still serving questions about their service.
I’d like to introduce all of you now to Jamie Fortier. Jamie is a twenty seven year old veteran of the war in Iraq who is married and has two sons. She works as a CNA and she is also finishing up a degree in computer forensics. She deployed to OIF III in 2005 with the 3rd Infantry division out of Fort Stewart Georgia.
I asked Jamie several questions about her time in service, and this is what she had to say:
KL- When and why did you join the military, and was there any particular reason you chose your specific branch?
JF- I joined the Army to get away from where I grew up and also because I wanted to fight for my country and for things that I felt were right. I am proud of who I am, and I wanted to show that and make something of myself. I actually chose my job because it was the one that left the soonest after signing.
KL- What is one of your greatest accomplishments, as you see it, as a soldier?
JF- My greatest accomplishment as a soldier I think was to be able to do the job that was asked of me. I know that might be somewhat odd to say but as a soldier at times you are asked to give everything you have and to put your trust into others. Being able to do that whole heartedly was an accomplishment for me.
KL- What is your fondest and/or least fond military memory?
JF- My fondest memory is sitting on the checkpoint in South Baghdad. The sun was starting to set and me and several of the infantry guys were just hanging out chatting. We were waiting for someone to come through the checkpoint and at that time in the evening things were really slow. We had a little runner boy there by the name of Ali. As we stood there watching the sun set over the Tigris river, this little eleven year old boy told me about how until the United States came into Iraq he had never been able to see the night sky. It showed me how much we had changed these people’s lives.
KL- When and why did you ETS?
JF- I got out of the active duty Army in 2007. I was supposed to get a medical board but instead took a pregnancy chapter because- well to be honest- I didn’t really realize that there was a difference. Yes, I was a little naïve back then. After that I did a year National Guard which after doing active duty I hated- lol. I loved the military life.
KL- What would you have done differently, if anything, during your military service?
JF- The first thing I would have done differently is that I wouldn’t have gotten out. I would have stayed in as long as I possibly could. There is nothing better than the feeling of knowing that you are willing to give everything for the people and the country that you love.
KL- In recent times, women have gained the right to join combat arms M.O.S.s. What are your views on this? Also, many people- both men and women- disagree with this choice. What would be your message to them?
JF- When I was deployed I was assigned to an infantry unit as a female searcher along with several other amazing females. We were the first ones to do anything of that kind. We went on raids, patrols, and checkpoints with the males. We did the same things that they did because we were there to help with the female Iraqis. When my guys were at a checkpoint taking fire I was right along beside them, behind concrete barriers taking shots with them. There was nothing different between me and them. They were amazing soldiers who were willing to teach me the things that I didn’t know anything about.
Instead of seeing me as a female like so many people are worried about, they saw me as a sister. There was nothing inappropriate; they respected me just as I did them.
Males in combat units see each other as brothers. Well, there are some females that will see you the same way. I am not saying that all females are cut out for combat arms MOS’s, but there are some that are willing and ready to come in and do the same job and make the same sacrifice that men are willing to make. Why not let them?
We understand that we will have to prove ourselves just as men have had to, but at least give us the chance to without automatically assuming we will fail. Believe in us like we do you.
KL- Knowing what you know now after having served, would you do it all again?
JF- In a heartbeat! I in fact, I tried to go back in, but due to my disability rating I was not allowed to. I miss it every day.
*Kevin E Lake is an Iraq War veteran and an author. He is a veteran’s affairs contributor for Yahoo New and Joe the Plumber’s JoeforAmerica.com. His novels are available on Amazon at: http://www.amazon.com/Kevin-E-Lake/e/B00352K6O0/ref=ntt_dp_epwbk_0