The Saturday Read – Gayle Tzemach Lemmon ‘Ashley’s War’

For this Memorial Day Weekend, ‘The Saturday Read’ is ‘Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield’. The story of Ashley White Stumpf and her US Army ‘band of sisters’ is told by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon, a Senior Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations. “A Fulbright scholar and Robert Bosch Fellow, she began reporting from conflict regions during MBA study at the Harvard Business School following nearly a decade covering politics at ABC News.”

The book is dedicated in part “To all the unsung warriors. That you may never be forgotten.” For many Americans, including Ashley’s mother, the role of women in combat in Afghanistan was unknown until Ashley came home to Dover Air Force Base.

An ABC News ‘Nightline’ segment provided background on the story.

“The U.S. Army Special Operations Command created a program in 2010 called the Cultural Support Teams. They were special units of female Army soldiers that were meant to build relationships with Afghan citizens as Green Berets and Army Rangers searched compounds in the rugged desert of Kandahar.”

“The “CST’s” would do essential work that the male soldiers could not: they would interface with local women and children to gather information, because in traditional Islamic culture it was considered inappropriate for men to commingle with women.”

The book offers “a ground-level view of the women who answered the call to serve with Special Operations Forces, soldiers who raised their hands right away when they heard of the chance to volunteer with the best in battle.”

In the ‘Nightline’ segment, Diane Sawyer posed a question to author Lemmon, “What is courage?” Her response, “Being afraid and doing it anyway. It’s always taking the hard right over the easy road.”

An excerpt from the Epilogue of ‘Ashley’s War’:

“On Memorial Day 2012, Lieutenant General John Mulholland stood before an assembly of grieving families to honor the Army special operations soldiers who had given everything for their country.

“It is important that we never forget that Ashley and her brothers-in-arms were truly exceptional people,” he said during the annual  ceremony held on the U.S. Army Special Operations Forces Memorial Plaza. “They had and always will have a value beyond measure; they are supremely competent in what they chose to do, were clearly committed to making a difference in the world in which they lived, and they unquestionably did so.””

Take time this Memorial Day to read ‘Ashley’s War’ and recognize the truly exceptional people who made a difference in the world.

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