Sunday, August 9, 2015

Love My Rifle More Than You

Kayla Williams writes from the gut, the heart, and the mind. She joined the army after college–and after marriage and divorce. Her early life was not easy, but “sons of the sinner, sons of the saint,/who is the child with no complaint?” She always was her own person, taking risks and accepting the consequences, even as she entered her teens. So, it was fitting (though not predictable) that ten years later, she joined the army, pretty much on a dare. She served in Iraq in 2003-2004 as an interpreter.

Shows young woman in combat uniform with large automatic rifle in front of a military vehicle
Love My Rifle More than You:
Young and Female in the U.S. Army

by Kayla Williams (W. W. Norton, 2005).
I found the book attached to her biography on the “Foxhole Atheists” tab (“Meet the MAAF”) of the Military Association of Atheists and Freethinkers.

Williams labels herself a “secular humanist” and she thanks the chaplains who provided emotional support for those in combat.

Her insights into adjusting to war are deep and meaningful. She speaks not just for herself, but from her observations of others. Even those who originally embraced the locals came to distrust and despise them, not for anything they did, but for being the cause of the soldier’s being in an untenable situation. 

In addition to Iraqis, Williams met two other groups who were then just footnotes, and who have since been catapulted to the headlines: the Peshmerga militia of the Kurds; and the hapless Yezidi.  

Williams maintained a vegetarian diet while in combat for a year. She lost 30 pounds, down from 145, but stabilized with food from the local Kurds. She also was able to get some halal and kosher MREs, but not without hijacking them. (No one was eating them. They were to be destroyed. But she was not Jewish, and “vegetarian” is not a recognized religion.)

Toward the end of her deployment, she discovered Atlas Shrugged, and it resonated with her. Focused and detailed, she often ran headlong into brazen incompetence. 

Much of the narrative is about the unrelenting sexual harassment. In small words and grotesque actions, the female soldier is barraged every hour of every day. 

Returning home, she soon retreated from unknowing (but sympathetic) family, friends, and acquaintances back to Fort Campbell. There, she was among others who had shared her experiences.  Eventually, she found her way out, and her new book is Plenty of Time When We Get Home: Love and Recovery in the Aftermath of War.

Previously on Necessary Facts
  

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