Special/Signature Issues » Daughters Deployed

Lisa Keding, 35


Service: Mass communications specialist

Occupation: Active-duty Navy since 1992

Let me tell you how frustrating it is to be in Iraq watching Fox News or CNN. What I do write about is military operations and positive things. We don't highlight the negative stories as much. What I try to write is positive stories, because there's all kinds of negative news stories out there about the Navy and the military in general, and you don't see a lot of the good stories.

There was a story that I did on a payment operation. We helped pay 65,000 former Iraqi militants to basically lay their weapons down and say, "We're not going to fight anymore." After sweating and working really hard, we went back into the chow hall where you're eating chow food, which isn't the best, turn on the news, and what happened in Iraq today? Car bomb. IED [improvised explosive device]. You could almost hear and feel -- it was palpable — the disappointment.

I don't think [women] should [be in direct combat]. The reason I do not think they should is because you can't separate the fact that a woman's a woman and a man's a man. It will detract from the mission of the men. If a woman is injured and a male was injured, if there's two men back here, and it's not a sexist thing, the man would probably help the woman more so than the man just because that's just the way of the world. So if there's any way to cut back on someone dying needlessly, that's what I would want for my son or my father. It's not that I'm scared to be in combat; it's just that I wouldn't want to jeopardize the mission.

When I was in Iraq we had a celebration, a school reopening. The school was packed. During the assembly one of the Iraqis came up and said we have a little girl who wrote an essay and won a contest. They almost didn't let her come and be recognized because I guess they didn't think she was important enough or it might have been embarrassing for them. But we said oh, please, bring her up, come on up. The little girl spoke through a translator and said, basically, I just want to thank the Americans for giving us a shot, us females, for opening up windows and doors that we may have never had before. And that, for me, was probably the pinnacle in Iraq.

Now I go to VCU part time and I've been in discussions with people that obviously weren't for the war. I took a poetry class, and my professor was very liberal, left-wing, doesn't believe in the war, and we bumped heads.

Sarah was the girl who wrote the essay. I wrote a poem called "Sarah Sings," a positive poem about Iraq. When we read the poems, other students would read the poems and not identify who the author was, and we would get criticism and feedback. My teacher came back and was like, well, you know, there's so many people dying, does it really account for one or two of these good stories? He said some stuff about President Bush and the military, and at that point I was a little offended. I said, by the way, I wrote that poem. I'm in the military. I have been to Iraq, and I just want to let you know that I will get offended if you say comments such as that.

He may have thought that the person who wrote the poem was just talking, maybe one of their relatives had served in Iraq or they were reading a newspaper clipping, because, of course, I don't go to class in my uniform. I'm not a typical man with a typical Navy haircut.

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