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Author Laura Browder spoke about women in the military during a Cunanan Leadership Speaker Series lecture Monday on ECU’s campus. (Photo by Cliff Hollis)

Author talks about women combat veterans

Though official policy prohibits women from serving in combat roles, many women already are, author Laura Browder told an ECU audience during a visit in September.

It’s just one of many misconceptions many civilians have about women in the military, said Browder, a University of Richmond professor who visited ECU’s Wright Auditorium to discuss, “When Janey Comes Marching Home: Portraits of Women Combat Veterans.”

The multimedia initiative — gallery show, book and documentary film — presents portraits of service women returning from war zones in Iraq and Afghanistan. More than 200,000 women have served in Iraq and surrounding regions. More than 50 of them have spoken to Browder about their triumphs and struggles.

Their stories, Browder said, were at times “moving, comic, thought-provoking and profound.”

One soldier told her, “If it wasn’t for my family, I’d want to be deployed for my entire Army career.”

Another service member who had returned from deployment, said, “I really miss the feeling of knowing what my purpose is.”

Their feelings on fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq were complex, but their dedication to their units and fellow troops were not.

“Some were very strongly pro war, some were against it, but for most of them, it was so much more complicated than that,” Browder said. “Pro and con were simply categories that didn’t apply.”

Browder’s lecture was part of the Cunanan Leadership Speaker Series, made possible by a gift from alumni Steve and Ellen Cunanan of Richboro, Pa. Matching funds also are provided by the Johnson & Johnson Foundation. The lecture was also supported by the ECU College of Health and Human Performance and the College of Fine Arts and Communications.

A related photo exhibit is expected to be on display at ECU in spring 2011.


This story appeared originally in the Oct. 29, 2010 issue of Pieces of Eight. An archived version of that issue is available at