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Her War: The Untold Fight of Female Veterans

The difficulties faced by returning veterans - including PTSD - are only beginning to be understood. But an often ignored facet of the problem is the fact that a large number of these veterans are female. A new documentary, Her War, follows one homeless veteran as she tries to rebuild her life.

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Lionesses – A team of female soldiers in Afghanistan (Image United States Marine Corps Official Page via Flickr)

The first decade of this century will be remembered for the U.S military escalation in the Middle East and Asia. The American effort in Iraq is now over; so will be the operations in Afghanistan as the pull-out of U.S  troops is planned for 2014.

Since 9/11, 1,353, 627 American soldiers  have been served in both the warzones. In a couple of years they are going to go back home. But what are the life expectations of this generation of veterans?

Over the years, attention has been paid to the high incidence of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) affecting members of combat units coming back from war zones. Many words have been spent on the possible risk of veterans committing suicide once they were dismissed.

However, the psychological consequences of combat as well as the strive to reintegrate with civilian society are still a relatively uncharted area – and an even less well documented facet of the problem is the fact that many U.S veterans are women.

According to Veterans of America, more than 11% of the total troops deployed in Iraq and fghanistan are women. Fifteen percent of the military forces currently on duty and twenty percent of the new recruits are female. It’s a dark corner in our still naïve picture of  veterans’ issues.

In total, out of 22 million US veterans, 1.8 million are women according to United States Department for Veterans’ affairs. This toll is going to increase as  the Afghan war comes to an end.

If nobody raises awareness of the problem, many more female VAs are likely to face these sever difficulties while re-entering ordinary life.

Exposing the social issue of female veterans is the aim of “Her War”, a documentary written and directed by the photographer and filmmaker Mimi Chakarova. This short documentary tries to investigate the problem of the growing number of women – former US soldiers – living on the streets of Skid Row, in San Francisco, experiencing homelessness, drug addiction and alcoholism.

“Her War” is the story of Renee Banton, a former homeless VA who succeeded in finding her way out Skid Row to start a community for helping female veterans. This is the story of women who couldn’t find their place in the world again, after their service in the army. “Her War” is the story of who left the battlefield only to find another, harsher, war to fight, instead of the peace they were looking for.