Women Under Fire by Sarah L. Blum

Sarah L. Blum served as an operating room nurse at the 12th Evacuation Hospital in Cu Chi during the Vietnam War. Today she is a nurse psychotherapist who works with trauma resolution and PTSD. Under her married name, Saralee McGoran, she was featured in the book Long Time Passing by Myra McPherson and in In the Combat Zone by Kathryn Marshall.

Blum was one of the first two women elected to the National Board of Directors of the Vietnam Veterans of America in 1983. She helped lobby Congress to study the connection between exposure of veterans to defoliants and the birth defects in their children.

Her well-organized, well-written book, Women Under Fire Abuse in the Military (Brown Sparrow Publishing, 184 pp., $18.95, paper), has six chapters. Each heading tells us what this book is all about in a succinct way: “The Shame of the Military,” “Rape and Reporting,” “Pregnancy and Discharge,” “Military Sexual Trauma,” “Spousal Abuse and Betrayal,” and “Attitude and Accountability. There also is a short, useful glossary.

Sarah Blum

Three chapters recount one brutal, awful event after the other that has occurred to women in the military. This is daunting to read and often caused me to recoil and close the book to take a few deep breaths.

The overwhelming weight of the horror of the stories in this book is crushing, depressing, and beyond sad—it is an indictment of the U. S. military, the Human Condition, and the quality of life on this planet.

When I contemplated what steps would have to be taken to change the overwhelmingly corrupt old boys’ club culture of the military—the machoman mystique that rape and pillage such as we see on television when we watch The Vikings—the only change I could envision would have to come from swift Draconian punishments of those who break the laws: hanging in public, that sort of thing.

Is that likely to happen?  Not any time soon.

The author in Vietnam in 1968

I recommend that all women who are thinking of joining the military read this book first. If my daughter were considering joining, I would beg her to read this book.

When she was a senior in high school, a local Army recruiter called my daughter on a weekly basis. She eventually asked me to screen her calls from him. I finally told the sergeant he should give up, which he did.

I never discussed the military abuse issue with him, but it was much in my mind because the daughter of a close friend was raped while she was a student at the Air Force Academy. She was horribly treated and got no justice. I did not want that to happen to my daughter.

This book is disturbing, powerful, and thought-provoking to the extreme.  Buy it and read it and then take what action you can to change the military culture of abuse of women.

The author’s website is http://womenunderfire.net

—David Willson

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