Invisible Warriors: In Their Own Words

In this docuseries, women who have served in our armed forces tell their stories of pride, comradery, challenge, struggle, and triumph, while in service to our country. This series is unique in that it brings us first person perspectives from a not yet fully heard portion of our army, Marine Corps, navy, coast guard and air force. They are sisters, daughters, wives, and mothers, and they have been our nation’s service—women.

We asked some of the over 200 women who have written to us from across the United States, “What is your name? What was your rank? And why did you join ? ” When we ask “Why did you join?” we hear fascinating personal stories of life-changing experiences, all from woman who have been soldiers, sailors, and airmen.

We learn about servicewomen’s lives in the military and how their lives can change once they leave it. We get first hand testimony that females in service compete and serve equally alongside with their fellow soldiers. They fight battles outside of our borders, but sometimes they fight battles from within their own ranks as they face extra scrutiny, disregard, and even physical harm from our own U.S. servicemen. They describe different ways of persevering, whether it’s through their achieving a successful lifetime career of service and pride, or whether getting through the day following a sexual assault.

With each story we better understand that the expectations of our men and women who join the military is equal, but our treatment of—and support for—our woman can be very different. These are stories from our nation’s servicewomen that we have not heard, or had the chance to consider, along with our service men.

The women who have contacted us are black, white, Native American; and emigrants from Eastern Europe. They come from varying backgrounds and they have served in WWII, The Vietnam War; and of course, the Middle East. These are a few of their stories:

Tonya was a truck driver who deployed to northern Iraq in 2008. After returning home she describes how her behavior became more violent, and how her use of alcohol escalated. She received a second DUI in 2010, and Article 15 paperwork was started by her commander.(Article 15 allows a commander to resolve alleged minor misconduct against a soldier without resorting to higher forms of discipline such as a court martial. The decision to impose an Article 15 is completely the commander’s.)

Tonya tells of how she (The sole female soldier amongst fellow soldiers who also were facing an Article 15) was the only soldier not allowed to speak to her battalion commander. Non-Commissioned Officers in Charge (N.C.O.s) were willing to vouch for Tonya, but they also would not be seen. Tonya was sent to the army substance abuse program but it was determined that she did not t the criteria for someone who needed alcohol or substance abuse counseling; no other/further counseling was offered to her. Tonya feels that—in fact—she suffered from PTSD. But this was never considered as the reason for the behaviors she was disciplined for. Tonya takes responsibility for her actions, but says she realizes now that she never received the treatment or support that was given to her fellow male soldiers at the time.

Kelia enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2011 as a Human Intelligence collector and went to different schools to grow as a soldier. She enlisted to give her life direction and purpose and says she grew as a soldier and a person. She is proud to say she loved what she did, in, and for, the military. She says she met incredible leaders, fellow soldiers; and told us she also met the man who became her husband. While she was pregnant, her husband was moved to another duty station. Since it would have been impossible for them to be together in the same place for the remainder of her con- tract, she left the military in 2013. Kelia’s story is an example of some of the hard choices that have to be made by—and are unique to—dedicated female soldiers.

DeAnna’s father was a highly respected air force jet mechanic from Louisville Kentucky. He was proud to have his daughter serve in the military along with her two brothers. All three were part of a military family tradition of dedication and service to their country. The first step DeAnna took when she turned 18 was to talk to a recruiter, and she enlisted the month after she graduated from High School. DeAnna’s father picked her first job, an intelligence job as an imagery interpreter. DeAnna thought that the reputation of her father and family in the military would protect her from the kind of harassment that she knew some female soldiers can face from male soldiers. But this proved to be no protection, and DeeAnna was raped, not merely by a fellow soldier, but her Officer In Charge. DeAnna’s story shows that when our daughters are the ones to carry on their family’s dedicated military service, they can face perils that our sons do not.

Leslie trained for the gulf war, was proud to be of service, and felt a strong sense of fellowship with the other soldiers in her unit. Her first experiences with sexual harassment were with the Saudi men who approached her as a prostitute. Sexual harassment escalated, but from within her own company. She was held responsible for the sexual harassment she experienced simply for being a woman. She was told woman “distracted” male soldiers. .

Leslie describes how while leaving the showers one day, she was overpowered, gagged, and raped by two fellow soldiers in her unit. She describes the shock and withdrawal that most woman experience after being raped. In spite of her trauma, Leslie reported to duty the next morning only to be chased and sexually harassed again by yet another male soldier. She describes how this assault caused her to react at that moment, wanting to reach for her weapon on her belt and shoot the soldier. She did not, she withdrew, and was unable to seek the support, understanding, or justice that any rape victim should receive. Her attackers were never charged with their crime and Leslie has been silent until now. She has at last found the strength to speak up and says she is grateful to finally tell her story .

Judy is the Vice-Commander of a woman’s veteran organization in Pennsylvania, she writes:

“Our members are proud of their military service, we have women Veterans from all branches of service and who have served in WWII, Korea, Vietnam, Gulf and Iraq Wars; and our oldest member is 101 years old. Our organization is interested in preserving the history and memories of Women Veterans within our area in PA as well as helping Women Veterans in need.

We all had our various reasons for joining the military, but you won’t find any in our group who are disgruntled or with negative attitudes.We are sisters at Arms.”

Invisible Warriors: In Their Own Words presents stories of the challenges, obstacles, and hardships that female veterans experience. There is also an underlying sense of them being part of a sisterhood, and of them having been of service to some thing they consider bigger than themselves. Many are proud, many are glad that they served, and they all have stories—some good and some bad—to tell .

By letting our county’s servicewomen tell their stories, “Invisible Warriors: In Their Own Words” presents us with the ladies who consistently show their pride for their service to our armed forces. They are grateful to have had the opportunity to serve, forge lasting friendships, and grow through surmounting the obstacles and challenges they faced in their complex experiences. From across our country, the women who tell their stories in “Invisible Warriors: In Their Own Words” let us know about the group of people we sometimes don’t realize we need to think of equally when we “support our troops. They are survivors of extraordinary circumstances and their stories are diverse and authentic. With each interview, we tap into rich veins of life experiences that have not been mined. We hear and learn from our living “unknown soldiers” and their pride and strength is apparent and inspirational. They are always grateful when they have their chance to finally be heard, and our understanding of this country’s military is more complete as we hear what they have to say.

Wendy Shear is the daughter of the late director/producer Barry Shear & actress Sondra Roe Shear. Born in Brooklyn, NY, she moved to Beverly Hills California when she was 6 years old.

Growing up, Shear spend most of her free time following her father & learning the business first hand on numerous productions.

Escaping/graduating Hollywood High School, she went straight into working for KLAC/KMET radio & then making the leap into the music business. It was there she met her first husband; a road manager for The Who; & moved to London for 5 years. There she worked for Universal Television.

Being a child of Hollywood, the marriage went south & Wendy went west back to California. There she began her TV/film career in earnest, working as an assistant director on such shows as “Dynasty,” “Wings,” “Sisters,” & Clint Eastwood’s iconic film, “Every Which Way But Loose,” to name but a few. She also did some 2nd unit direction on several shows & the stunt unit of “Dukes of Hazard.”

Shear went on to marry again, a Belgian Baron & yes, after 10 years, that too came to an end.

In 2005, Shear felt the need for a new life & moved to New York. There her years of experience has come to fruition, giving Shear the chance to produce several indie films as well as the golden opportunity to direct her first feature film, “The Camera’s Eye.”