The Lonely Soldier

Click here to read an interview with the author about
The Lonely Soldier.

More women soldiers are fighting in Iraq than in any other American war in history, yet they face a dual challenge: they are participating in combat more than ever before, but because only one in ten soldiers is female, they are often painfully alone. This isolation, along with a military culture hostile to women, denies them the camaraderie soldiers depend on for survival and subjects them to sexual persecution by their comrades. As one soldier said, "I ended up waging my own war against an enemy dressed in the same uniform as mine."

In The Lonely Soldier, Benedict humanizes the complex issues of war, misogyny, class, race, homophobia, post-traumatic stress disorder, and more through the compelling stories of five women of diverse ethnicities and backgrounds who served in Iraq between 2003 and 2006. By following these women from their childhoods through enlistment, training, active duty in Iraq, and home again, Benedict vividly brings to life their struggles and challenges. Between their stories she weaves in accounts from numerous other Iraq War veterans, illuminating the wrenching and private war of female soldiers.

Benedict ends by showing how these women came to face the truth of war and by offering suggestions for how the military can improve—including distributing women more evenly and rejecting male recruits with records of domestic or sexual violence.

Reviews

"As a 29-year Army and Army Reserve Colonel, I urge everyone—especially women considering joining the US military—to read this important book. Through unforgettable stories, The Lonely Soldier explains the shocking frequency of sexual assault and what can be done."
—Army Reserve Colonel Ann Wright

"It is hard to determine what is most disturbing about this book—the devious and immoral tactics used by leaders and recruiters to get women to join the military, the terrible poverty and personal violence women were escaping that lead them to be vulnerable to such manipulation, the raping and harassing of women soldiers by their superiors and comrades once they got to Iraq, or the untreated homelessness, illnesses and madness that have haunted women since they came home. The Lonely Solider is an important book, a crucial accounting of the shameful war on women who gave their bodies, lives and souls for their country."
—Eve Ensler, playwright, performer, activist and author of The Vagina Monologues

"It's outrageously immoral that our female soldiers have to fear many of the male soldiers they serve with, as well as being let down by the very Veterans Affairs system that's supposed to help them out. Thanks to Helen Benedict, the world is watching!"
—Roseanne Barr, Emmy Award-winning actor

"Once again, Helen Benedict reports what others sweep under the rug, and reveals a pattern where others see random events. The Lonely Soldier will shock you and enrage you and bring you to tears. It’s must reading for everyone who cares about women, justice, fairness, the military, and the United States."
—Katha Pollitt

"The Lonely Soldier tells an important and often ignored story about our military women. Benedict writes with skill and compassion, helping us understand what it feels like to be a women soldier in Iraq. I recommend this book to everyone who cares about our soldiers."
—Mary Pipher, author of Reviving Ophelia and Seeking Peace