“But women were not allowed in Combat until 2016” is something I have been told on more than one occasion. And once again I take the time to educate that the law actually prohibited women from serving in various combat units (Infantry, Special Forces, etc.) but not from the actual military combat. Laura Colbert’s memoir Sirens: How to Pee Standing Up is an important story because it tells the truth of the role of military women throughout the War on Terror.
When Laura joined the Army National Guard in the Spring of 2001 as a Military Police, she was looking for a way to college. Her friend said, “What’s going to happen the next six years?” No one could have predicted what was on the horizon that fall. Who knew that that September America would be attacked and the world would change? After a time of peace for so many years, a war began that is still happening nineteen years later. And while Laura’s deployment took her to Iraq and not Afghanistan war found a way into her life. Changing her story forever.
Sharing the role of military women
Laura decided to share her experience of military service in Siren: How to Pee Standing Up an Alarming Memoir of Combat and Coming Back Home by taking her extensive journal entries from her deployment and creating a book by trimming out the boring and repeated stories while keeping the reality of the fear and challenges she faced on a daily basis. Laura shared her story and talked about the Post Traumatic Stress Disorder she faced after coming home, and where she is today on Women of the Military Podcast Episode 87.
I received a copy of Sirens: How to Pee Standing Up when I interviewed Laura for the Women of the Military podcast. And I at first, I was confused by the title. Alarming memoir and the talk of peeing while standing up didn’t seem to go together. But the truth is war has moments of the alarm. While also having cherished memories and funny moments that make you laugh until your sides hurt. And as I began to read through Laura’s journal entries. I began to learn about the delicate dance soldiers face during war.
One of the first into Iraq
What I found most interesting about Laura’s story was how quickly her unit was in Iraq. They were in Iraq right after the Marine’s assault. Her team began helping to “rebuild” and “regain” security right after Iraq was liberated. When they first arrived, they were welcomed by the Iraqi people. But as time went on and the American force grew larger instead of smaller. And the violence and dangers of war intensified.
Laura also had a unique viewpoint as one of the lowest Enlisted ranks in the Army. A story regularly not told. She constantly facing the struggle of following orders without knowing why. And regularly feeling that those in charge didn’t have her safety or the best decision-making ability in mind. There were a number of stories where she was ordered to go somewhere without all the information needed. Or directed by leadership to go somewhere unsafe for essentially no reason.
Deep heartfelt emotion
The raw honesty contained throughout the story tells the struggle of war. Also what it is like being a lower enlisted member in the Army. And finally, the double standard that must be overcome by women. Too many people do not know the stories of military women. The challenges women had to face and overcame during their military service.
If you want to hear more stories of women who have served on the frontlines check out the Women of the Military Podcast. I’m including links to some of the stories women on the front lines. But every story has value. Every story is worth listening to. And don’t forget to grab your copy of Sirens: How to Pee Standing Up and my book Women of the Military.