Jerri Bell and Tracy Crow knew their own stories as women who had served in the military. Bell, a retired naval officer, and Crow, a former Marine Corps officer, had 30 years of military experience between them.
But, as they write in the preface to their book It's My Country Too, "In the process of writing this book, we discovered to our chagrin that we had served our country without knowing our own history. We didn't know whose shoulders we were standing on. ..."
To reveal the history of women in the military, they researched hundreds of documents: memoirs, essays, diaries, letters and more. The resulting book offers the stories of these women, in many cases in their own words.
It begins with an all-women militia unit led by Prudence Cummings Wright. In April 1775 in Massachusetts, they captured a British courier. Then come chapters on women who served, in many ways, in the Civil War, World Wars I and II, the Cold War, Vietnam and the series of wars in the Middle East.
The book ends with an essay by Brooke King of Tampa, a veteran of Iraq, called "Redeployment Packing Checklist."
"Pack your camo-covered Army Bible. The pages have to be rubberbanded shut, otherwise it opens to Psalm 23. Pack your tan 'Rite in the Rain' combat notebook, another sort of bible: the name and rank of every soldier you ever placed in a black body bag written on its pages. ...
"Fold over the top flaps. Shut it up tight. Lock it. Heave it onto your back. Carry it all home."
It's My Country Too: Women's Military Stories From the American Revolution to Afghanistan
Edited by Jerri Bell and Tracy Crow
Potomac Books, 330 pages, $32.95
Times Festival of Reading
Jerri Bell and Tracy Crow will be featured authors at the 2017 Tampa Bay Times Festival of Reading on Saturday at the University of South Florida St. Petersburg. They will speak at 3:15 p.m. in the Poynter Institute Great Hall.