March 20th, 2008
06:12 PM ET

Bloggers react to women vets story

360 Tonight

Veteran Keri Christensen was nearly a victim of a roadside bombing in Iraq when the convoy in front of hers was hit. Here's part of her interview with Randi Kaye.

More than 180,000 women have served in Iraq and Afghanistan, and they’d be happy to know so many of you care about them.

In my blog yesterday, I shared with you the story of Keri Christensen, a former member of the National Guard who served in Iraq and is now suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). She’s married and the mother of two adorable little girls, Madison and Oliva.

Keri has nightmares about body parts falling on her, she has thoughts of suicide and panic attacks, and sometime she’s so anxious she can’t even remember her home phone number...

Her story got such a tremendous response. Nicholas wrote, “My heart breaks for you. Your struggles are my own. And though I may never really know you, Keri, I want you to know, you have my love, and my heart.”

A male veteran, Richard, wrote, “I am also an Iraq vet and have PTSD, it took me 2 1/2 years to finally get my VA claim…. someone in Congress needs to help us.”

That’s the problem! For women especially, this is an historic time. Keri and so many others are making history as the first women “combat veterans” and the U.S. government doesn’t really have an official program in place to treat their unique needs. In the past, like in Vietnam, women served as nurses, and back then there were only about 7500 of them serving. In the brief Persian Gulf war, about 41,000 women were deployed.

Today, even though women are assigned to “combat support missions” they are in the thick of the violence and it is affecting them both physically and mentally. In 2006, the Veterans Administration diagnosed nearly 3,800 women with PTSD.

And as I mentioned on the last blog, which really disturbed so many of you, women serving today find themselves in many cases to be victims of sexual offenses, both harassment and assault. It’s so prevalent experts have given it a name: Military Sexual Trauma, or MTS.  Keri told me she was harassed by a fellow soldier who made comments about her breasts and propositioned her for sex. The military told CNN the complaint she filed had “no merit.”

In response to that, Kevin wrote, “The military would deny the existence of the moon if it served their objectives.” And Mechelle had this thought, “I don’t believe women should be in combative roles. If they are unable to defend themselves from fellow soldiers, in friendly situation, how will they be able to defend themselves from an enemy during combat?”

And then there was this response from Kathryn: “It’s common knowledge about women being sexually assaulted in the armed forces. Did she believe war was going to be a picnic? I’m as sympathetic to her as I would be to any soldier having PTSD, but surely she knew the risks before she ever decided to join the Guard. She didn’t have to join, & she should not have.”

So many interesting ways to look at this topic of women in combat.  The V.A. reports between 2002 and 2007, nearly 22 percent of women veterans had experienced some type of military sexual trauma. 22 percent!!! Who is going to help these people? There are some programs around the country but just as the hospitals weren’t prepared for all the male veterans who needed counseling or who were considering suicide, they are still trying to figure out how and what to do with these women. 

Melissa’s comments really spoke to that. She wrote, “After all the sacrifices we make for everyone else’s services surely we should be able to receive whatever help we need to readjust to life as a civilian. After all we rehabilitate criminals and work to reintroduce them to society why is this so hard to do for such selfless individuals as our soldiers.”

And Katherine added, “It will take eons, unfortunately, for the military and the VA to find a solution to sexual harassment or trauma to our woman vets. It took me 36 years to admit to anyone that I was raped while serving as a non-combat Vietnam era marine.”

Let’s hope it doesn’t take eons. Women like Keri Christensen may not have that kind of time..

– Randi Kaye, 360° Correspondent

Editor's note: Find out how you can help at Impact Your World

Filed under: Iraq • PTSD • Randi Kaye
soundoff (17 Responses)
  1. D

    As a women in the military for eleven years, I believe that we have been neglected and underestimated. Women today are on the front lines serving their country and it is not talked about. People don't want to know that mothers and daughters are fighting in combat. As a women in the military you have to be strong in order to be successful. We have to endure sexism daily sexual harrassment, yet be still keep up with our male conterparts. I cannot begin to tell you the sacrifices we women make not only in combat but in the military in general only to return with little regard. Women in the military do it because they want to serve their country like every man does, it is our choice to serve just like the women who fought so hard to ensure our right to vote, we women to day are paving the way in the military.

    March 24, 2008 at 2:26 pm |
  2. Keri

    Thank you to everyone for the kind words. I told my story because I am a strong women and feel that it's important for others Vets out there to get help and let the American people know that it's ok to speak out on such topics. I joined the Military back in 1991, because I was raised in a family where women were taught that we can do and be anything we want. As far as my superior sexually harrassing me, he stepped out of line. He is a married man with children himself and just because we were overseas does not constitute his actions. As far as the military denying my claim, I expected that, and I have to live with that. It's like being locked up in prison for a crime you didn't commit and you spend a lot of time trying to prove your self. I was told by the State of Wisconsin "what happens in Kuwait, stays in Kuwait" Isn't that what they say about Vegas, I don't recall my duty overseas was anything like Vegas.

    March 23, 2008 at 7:10 pm |
  3. CJ

    It is surprising how much women have to put up with.

    March 21, 2008 at 3:35 pm |
  4. Ram

    A womens role as a wife & mother of children in a family is to be a piller of strength in supporting the family activities. This is more than a full time job. In addition to this she could work close to home & bring in an additional income. A man's job is to go out, work, bring in the finances to support the family. This division of labor is essential to raise a good family. I really cannot understand why in this world women want to get a combat duty & men trying to keep a control on everything? Be smart, make life easy for yourself, live & enjoy life.

    March 21, 2008 at 1:53 pm |
  5. Donna, South Boston, MA

    Perhaps it shouldn't be surprising, but it certainly is frightening to read the comments–especially from women–that women should expect to be sexually harassed and assaulted if they choose to enter the military. How can these people sanction rape and harassment? It is not okay for male soldiers to throw their morals and the law out the window because they are at war. The solution is not to ban women from the military, but to better educate our young men. A man who will rape a woman is not defending his country or anyone.

    March 21, 2008 at 9:36 am |
  6. Ratna, New York, NY

    It is so rare that we hear about women telling their millitary experience and their struggles with PTSD. Has anyone thought off creating an organization where these women can receive eachother and share their experiences? Has Keri thought of that?

    March 21, 2008 at 9:21 am |
  7. karen nevarez, albuquerque, nm

    Is America ready for war for the next 100 years?

    March 21, 2008 at 3:29 am |
  8. Ernest Lee

    This race madness has surpassed disgusting. We all know the true American history, so lets stop acting like there's no issue here. There is! Are! If it makes white america feel comfortable, we'll not discuss the fact of white women gripping their purses when passing a black man in the mall. Or the racial profiling of the police. Or the disparate treatment received in court. Or the poverty stil prevelant in the black community after years of institutional racism. Or the fact that it all stems from the fact that America has a past... lets stop the lies.

    March 21, 2008 at 2:36 am |
  9. 1

    Well, i am sorry for Keri PTSD ! like Hal B said it's the people who pay the price of the government decision. Clinton the husband himself wanted to change his nationality to avoid being drafted meanwhile him and his wife voted for the War in Iraq.... now they want to run the white house again ! Supreme court should make unconstitutional for a former presidential couple to run twice. Now we have learned that obama's passport has been breached 3 times by some guys Why ? ? ?
    We people should assume our choices and their consequenses. apparently the mass is not smart enough to understand what's going on.
    Hope you get better Keri !

    March 21, 2008 at 1:41 am |
  10. Marianne

    I waited 36 years to have a baby girl. From the very beginning of her wonderful life, she made my heart smile. We were as close as I have ever known a mother and daughter to be.

    When she joined the ARMY and became an MP, I asked her in frustration why she would join during a time of war, she replied, “I want to be worthy of the country I grew up in. I want to deserve the country in which I live.”

    My incredible daughter, Ehren, received awards, medals, and honors I was never aware of...she didn't want me to worry. She was due to be released from her military obligation one year from last December.

    However, on December 9th, 2007, sometime during the late night, my daughter shot herself in the head, releasing herself from this world.

    Why? I want to know. I want to know why more of our beautiful daughters and handsome young men have committed suicide while in the military than those who have died in action. Someone please tell me, Why?

    Why aren't we talking more about these casualties of this insidious war?

    March 21, 2008 at 12:27 am |
  11. Hal B

    The American people are no different than any other people it's the policies of the American Government that causes the problems. Our politicians mess up the people pay the price .... We the people are tired of being told who to hate, (axis of evil) We the people can pick our own enemies.(thanks George)

    March 20, 2008 at 11:45 pm |
  12. Stacey

    I work at a crisis line for people who have mental health and substance abuse issues. I talk with veterans on a daily basis who are in crisis. They have fought for this country and risked their lives and what do they get in return? Nothing. I have never heard one good thing about the VA. These people are taught to not talk about what they see, and it is killing them. They may not have died in war, but they are dying on the inside. It is our responsibility as fellow human beings to help them in whatever way they may need. As for people who say they knew what they were getting into to, I don't think anyone can know the horror of what goes on over there unless you have lived it yourself. By then, it is too late to back out. I know I am trying to do my part for our veterans in any way that I can. What are you doing?

    March 20, 2008 at 11:12 pm |
  13. Michael, NC

    Thats a good report...really good. I know I just talked to my grandfather and he has been in and out of clinics from PTWS and he says it really never gets any easier once you leave. He has gotten MINIMAL help from the VA with that and no help aiding a hearing impairment he suffered. It is pretty inconsiderate and undermining, especially since they are working their asses off to spread freedom to other countries.

    March 20, 2008 at 9:07 pm |
  14. Janna

    Since you posted her comment again, I feel like I have to respond to Kathryn. The horrors of war are obvious, but are also abstract before you are faced with the sights, sounds and smells of them. I do agree that females in the military, sadly, have to expect some extent of MTS. However, I feel it is unfair to expect someone to know how they will react to combat experiences on a level too high for any non veteran to really comprehend!

    March 20, 2008 at 8:01 pm |
  15. Cindy

    I saw your report last night in the second hour. It was great! I feel so bad for Keri that she has so many problems to deal with from this war. But at least she is getting help. There are some who aren't and are getting turned away. Hopefully we can do something to change that and all vets will get the help that they need.

    Cynthia, Covington, Ga.

    March 20, 2008 at 6:46 pm |
  16. Lorie Ann, Buellton, California

    My thoughts go out to Keri. I think it's not only the government, but the American people themselves, who should stand beside and help every veteran that needs our support. They gave to us, now we must give back to them. Not with words, but with actions.

    Lorie Ann, Buellton, Calif.

    March 20, 2008 at 6:29 pm |
  17. Teresa, Ohio

    That was a real eye opener of a story. I believe every word of it. As you were reporting it, I was struck by how many abbreviated forms of terms the govt. uses.... Now we have MTS! I think more returning soldiers need to SPEAK OUT on the corruption and lies they have been told. The military will keep trying to cover their A**** if good soldiers dont speak up.

    I think why so many returnees are having such trouble is many werent really prepared for war and combat enough to digest the scope of war.
    AND the length of time it takes the VA and the govt. to help these soldiers is outrageous! SPEAK OUT, BE HEARD. ORGANIZE A GROUP... But, dont wait for your govt to help you, the govt wont help itself.

    Great reporting, Randi : )

    March 20, 2008 at 6:24 pm |

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