Helen Benedict-The Reality of War & Soldiers in the Military
Novelist and journalist, winner of an EMMA (Exceptional Merit in Media Award) for her book The Lonely Soldier, is the fifth guest for the Investigating Journalism class at NYU on October 25, 2012.
Helen Benedict considers herself to be an anti-corruption advocate. Her interest towards soldiers’ experience spiked when she heard a young man talk about “the bad side of war” after serving in Iraq. Interestingly enough, at one of the soldier reunions she attended to, Benedict met two young women who served in war and were out in combat. “” They felt that the glory of soldiers was never given to women and Benedict chose to listen those who were “a bitch, a hoe, or a dyke” in the military. Unintended Benedict found out their traumatic experience with sexual assault in their jobs and gave them what they needed most, a voice.
People fail to realize that women aren’t in the backrooms filing papers. They are facing the same dangers as men. #Benedict #IJNYU #Hei
Bitch if you don’t sleep with men. Hoe if you have a boyfriend. Dyke if they don’t like you. #IJNYU #Benedict
In order to put together The Lonely Soldier Benedict tells us that she interviewed about 40 soldiers. But for any piece of work the main characters who tell a story need to be articulate. Among those 40, Benedict was able to find 5 dynamic women with traumatic stories who at the same time brought as much variety as possible to the book. These women were chosen to project the reality that occurs to almost anyone in the military.
Benedict devoted a lot of time to getting the stories. Phone calls, visiting homes, schools, families. #Benedict #IJNYU #Hei
“You can’t write a book and expect people to be engaged in 40 stories, I thought 5 would be about the right number” #Benedict #sagers #IJNYU
As Benedict describes the interviews of the many women she encountered at their hometowns, she recalls the effects of war that would show up as they talked. Some became silent, some started to shake, some cried, and some joked to cope. They all had to deal with war even as they recounted their stories. Taking their experiences into account, Benedict did not push their silence “I did not want to re-traumatize these traumatized people.”
Soldiers have a great sense of humor. It helps them survive war. #benedict #ijnyu #stb3
#Benedict: “It is not our job to hurt our sources.” Let them tell you when they’re ready to tell you or they will shut up. #IJNYU #Sagers
To get soldiers to open up, and get the truth of their experience, Benedict asked to have stories repeated and focused on veterans. She also was aware that she could not get trust or create a relationship with these people by asking uncomfortable questions, and so, daily routine inquiries on their jobs usually brought to light what was going on in their lives. At the same time as an outsider, Benedict saw that these women were able to open up with her after keeping their experiences to themselves for so long. Gag orders and ‘don’ ask don’t tell systems’, prevent soldiers to speak up, oftentimes creating stress that they have to deal within themselves.
“It takes time, it takes sensitivity, it takes patience.” #Benedict on interviewing soldiers. #IJNYU #Sagers
“Because you’re not family, these soldiers will often open up more to you. It felt good to help them by listening.” #IJNYU #Benedict #hei
“You listen, you’re sympathetic, you’re just a human being.” #Benedict on interviewing the female solders. #ms1 #IJNYU
As Benedict research
started, she wasn’t aware of the dangers of serving as a female. She also did
not understand why would women enlist during war, and later found that their backgrounds
were very influential. One of her first purposes with this intense “digging,” was
to understand women roles as there hasn’t been a time in which so many women were
part of our military.
“i wanted to get across what the war was like day to day….i wanted to understand what was being done in our names” #benedict #ijnyu #am