Rusty Dennen covers military affairs and the environment for The Free Lance-Star. .
Women and war
The 45 photographs lining one wall of the National Museum of the Marine Corps are unusual, in that all of them are of women. They are among the many thousands of women who have cycled through the war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. The first one, as you enter the hall from the stairs, is of Marine Sgt. Jocelyn Proano. Beside her photo is an account, in her own words, of a few chapters of her life, and how it was shaped by the military. She begins, “I grew up in New Jersey in the ghetto. I was always getting in trouble, getting into fights and I got expelled from school.” She goes on to say how her brother inspired her to join the military. She talks about being deployed with a 1-year-old daughter at home, finishing her tour and going back to the states, then wishing she’d be deployed again, rather than doing paperwork. The women on the wall are young, some are retired, on active duty, and in the Reserves. In many cases, their accounts are frank, even raw, touching on topics such as serving with men, leaving loved ones at home, and unvarnished views of their service. The traveling exhibit, which opened Monday, is called When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans. The exhibit, a collaboration between author-filmmaker Laura Browder and photojournalist Sascha Pflaeging, features 45 large-scale color photo portraits and oral histories. It tells not only what it was like to be under fire, but what unique challenges they faced as women in combat zones. The material will be on display until Oct 9. Click here for more on the museum, which is open from 9 a.m.- 5 p.m.; admission is free. Read my story about the exhibit later this week.