Service: When Women Come Marching Home
A Documentary by Maria Rock and Patricia Lee Sotter
The Cal Armed Forces Alumni for Equity (CAFAEI) and Inclusion presented a new documentary highlighting the insurmountable odds women veterans face when they return from active duty service in the military.
The Cal Armed Forces Alumni for Equity and Inclusion proudly sponsored this special event. Opening remarks were followed by the hour-long documentary and a panel discussion on August 7, 2012.
Women make up 14.5 percent of the US military force. That number is expected to double within 10 years. Through compelling portraits, the film introduces us to the women who fought in the frontless wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. Many now struggle to recover from devastating physical injuries as well as invisible injuries such as PTSD and its often insidious catalyst, military sexual trauma.
The documentary takes the audience on a journey from the deserts of Afghanistan to rural Tennessee and from Iraq to urban New York. We move from Sue’s heart-rending story of being the first female double-amputee from Afghanistan to Brigette’s description of her rape at age 19, her depression and eventual homelessness. We meet Lashonna who was abandoned by her family because of her mood swings and who ends up in a shelter; Mariette who was a gunner in Iraq and is now frightened by a backfiring car; Alicia who shops at 2:00 a.m. to avoid crowds remembering her patrols as an MP. SERVICE shows women functioning as fully accepted and contributing members of a military unit as well as the devastating isolation and persecution of those who report rape. These intimate portraits also focus on the struggle of these women to return to their roles as mothers and wives, daughters and sisters as they try to remember how to feel love.
Through interviews in their kitchens, bathrooms, and therapy sessions, SERVICE reveals the raw truths that our women warriors fight in the battlefield called “home.” The film exposes how they deal with their disabilities, and the difficulties they face getting the services they deserve from the VA—a traditionally male-dominated institution that is just now addressing the special needs of women. We see these vets, not as victims, but as soldiers fighting to find homes, gaining independence with service dogs, responding to therapy and demanding their benefits. The documentary ends in Washington D.C. where our women warriors meet Congressional leaders and confront the VA with their concerns.
The film’s producers hope to wake up our sleeping civilian population to these challenges before it’s too late. SERVICE highlights the resourcefulness of seven amazing women who represent the first wave of mothers, daughters and sisters returning home from the frontless wars of Iraq and Afghanistan. SERVICE is a multi-platform project with a vibrant Facebook group where women vets exchange information and find support. The film is just beginning a series of screenings around the country.
Jo Ann Martinez is the founder of Women Veterans Connect, an Air Force veteran, writer, photographer and artist. Understanding the value of peer support and community, Jo Ann developed Woman Veterans Connect, a multi-platform service to connect, inform, and support women veterans nationwide.