Soul SurvivorsSoul Survivors

War is brutal. It affects all parts of our lives — from the mental to the emotional to the physical. No one is immune from the challenges. Some face more challenges than others, depending on where they were in Iraq or Afghanistan and when they were there. And what they experienced. Here are more than a dozen stories of women who have more than survived the trauma of war and military sexual trauma. They are thriving. Helping them get on with their lives are things such as spirituality/religion, movement, advocacy, and the arts. It sounds simple but there is nothing easy about moving through PTSD and TBI to post-traumatic growth. These women should be applauded for what they have accomplished in their personal and professional lives.


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Girls Come Marching HomeThe Girls Come Marching Home

This book features deeply personal and emotional accounts of more than a dozen American servicewomen returning home from the war in Iraq and Afghanistan. The women are from the Army, Navy, Marine Corps, Air Force, and Coast Guard. They are inspiring stories of courage while recovering from physical and psychological wounds. The Girls Come Marching Home includes the frustrations of navigating the military bureaucracy to get help. It also focuses on how combat affects someone’s entire life, including her family and friends.


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Reviews for Girls Come Marching Home

Since 2001, U.S. women went marching into war in ways never seen before. Serving in foreign lands, they frisked people at checkpoints, searched for bombs, drove trucks while under fire and emptied their weapons against their enemies.

More than 225,350 female service members have been deployed for the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, representing 11 percent of the total number of U.S. troops…

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Jeanette Steele, Union-Tribune (San Diego), Sept 22, 2009

Two years ago Wilmington author Kirsten Holmstedt profiled the lives of female service members in Iraq and Afghanistan, examining the roles they played in the military roles that brought them under fire, no matter what the stated policy of the United States is about women in combat. She’s just released a follow-up which looks at what happens to those women as they, like their male counterparts, endure multiple deployments in America’s ongoing wars. George Olsen has more.

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George Olsen, Public Radio East, July 23, 2009

“In her follow-up to “Band of Sisters,” Holmstedt looks at America’s frontline female soldiers fighting in Iraq — and finds out what happens when these brave women return home. The author discovered that reaction to women combat vets is different. “A male veteran’s friends, family, co-workers and community understand and more or less accept his presence in combat,” Holmstedt tells Required Reading. “Many civilians do neither, though, if the veteran is female. A woman returning from war, then, having taken pride in her competence as a military professional and her success in combat, is frequently dismissed or second-guessed by people who believe she shouldn’t have been in a combat role at all.”

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Billy Heller, New York Post Required Reading, July 5, 2009

Kirsten Holmstedt sat at her keyboard and cried. She couldn’t write a word.

She was working on the story of CJ Robison, a master sergeant with Iowa’s Army National Guard. “Her blood runs [Army] green,” Holmstedt said. “This woman loves her country.”
After a tour of duty running convoys in Iraq, however, Robison “came home broken,” Holmstedt said. After surviving multiple explosions of IEDs (improvised explosive devices), the sergeant had lost much of her hearing. She suffered headaches and had trouble keeping her balance. Her speech slowed. Her voice began to tremble. Back home, she completed studies to become a nurse but couldn’t take state board exams because …

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Ben Steelman, Star News, July 4, 2009

“All opinions about today’s wars aside, The Girls Come Marching Home is a must-read for anyone concerned about women or war. Gunfire, IEDs, child soldiers, racism, sexism and death are shown as part of wartime routine, with people in the armed forces making split-second decisions no human should ever have to make or imagine.”

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Shira Tarrant,, July 17, 2009

All of this is epic stuff. Earlier today, after having just finished the book, I noticed myself looking at young women I saw at the gas station and supermarket, and wondering, “Is she a combat vet? She COULD be.” How many of us did that before the publication of “Band of Sisters” and, now, “The Girls Come Marching Home”? Ms. Holmstedt’s books are incrementally transitioning us as Americans into people who routinely and without surprise see women as fighters for our country…thereby adding another nuance to what Shakespeare called woman’s “infinite variety.”

D.E. Weber, July 3, 2009

Band of SistersBand of Sisters

In Iraq, the front lines are everywhere – and everywhere in Iraq, no matter what their job descriptions say, women in the U.S. military are fighting–more than 155,000 of them. A critical and commercial success in hardcover, Band of Sisters presents a dozen groundbreaking and often heart-wrenching stories of American women in combat in Iraq, such as the U.S.’s first female pilot to be shot down and survive, the military’s first black female pilot in combat, a young turret gunner defending convoys, and a nurse struggling to save lives, including her own.



Winner of the 2007 American Authors Association Golden Quill Award
Winner of the 2007 Military Writers Society of America Founder’s Award

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Reviews for Band of Sisters

“Band of Sisters is one of the few truly revealing books written about our military in the past decade–and one of the most fascinating to read. This overdue account of the combat actions of the women who wore our country’s uniform in recent wars reads as swiftly as a thriller, but the thrills here come from the real sacrifices and valor of America’s fighting women. Author Kirsten Holmstedt earns a salute for honoring these all-American heroes.”

Ralph Peters, author of “Never Quit The Fight” and “Wars Of Blood And Faith”

“What price freedom? The experiences of these women warriors give us a different and profound look at that question. This book is destined to become a military classic! There is power in these stories that must be shared. The Military Writer’s Society of America gives this book its highest book rating of FIVE STARS and its recommendation as a must read book!”

W. H. McDonald Jr., Founder of The Military Writer’s Society of America

“An insightful, intimate portrait of America ‘s fighting women in Iraq , a perilous place with no front lines. This is must reading for men and women alike as gender equity plays out on the battlefields, as well as the playing fields, of the future”

Charles Jones, author of “Boys of ’67: From Vietnam to Iraq, the Extraordinary Story of a Few Good Men”

“Band of Sisters is lyrical, visceral and potent. Kirsten Holmstedt, a gifted reporter, sets a peerless standard as a raconteur with powerful stories of the valor of today’s women in combat. Her detailed, unique research blends smoothly with a warm, professional tone, elevating her work above the many Iraq war narratives. A fitting tribute to women of all ages and ranks who volunteer to serve.”

Dave Danelo, author of “Blood Stripes: A Grunt’s View of the War”

“A fascinating account of a part of the war that is rarely covered. Holmstedt introduces an eye-opening description of women warriors exposed to ambushes, bombs, and war close up. Band of Sisters describes the experiences of modern day women defending our great nation.”

Major General Donald Gardner, President of Marine Corps University

“This is an exceptional book about some extraordinary women who represent a warrior class that is too often overlooked. I found Kirsten Holmstedt’s writing captivating, insightful, and emotionally compelling-I laughed, I cried, and I felt so proud of all of her heroines; and, of an America that gave them opportunity. My career experience being associated with women warriors would only confirm those that she found representative.”

Lt. Gen. C. Norman Wood, USAF (Ret.)

“Band of Sisters is a must read for all military war buffs and for those who will study the war in Iraq and Afghanistan in the future. It’s the inside story of modern warfare from the perspective of modern warriors. Asymmetric warfare cares not about the gender of its participants, and I’m glad these women are on our side. Kirsten has done a terrific job in capturing their personal experiences so that we will never forget.”

Colonel Adele Hodges

“Women have and continue to do so much for our military. The only difference now is that we are in combat roles. I want to thank you for bringing these patriotic women together to share their stories with the American public. Our blood runs red, white, and blue, and it can be shed just like our brothers. We deserve the credit and our place in history. In the end, though, we all come together for one reason-freedom-and under one flag. Thank you again for the support. God bless!”

Sergeant Sarah Lytle has served two tours in Iraq as a CH-46E avionics technician and aerial gunner

“There may still be much to debate about the ill-fated war in Iraq but there is no question that American women in uniform have played a far greater role in this conflict than any in the past, including more than 70 who have been killed and more than 430 who have been wounded. A North Carolina writer proves herself a dogged researcher as she collects the fascinating personal stories from women who have served in Iraq, from various branches, ranks and jobs. Holmstedt’s comprehensive look at their courageous and gritty service experiences deserves wide readership because of the way that it captures what has only been episodic in most news coverage of this tragic blunder.”

Seattle Post’s summer reading list today, June 22, 2007

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