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Minnesota National Guard
Go Home can be toughest order

Almost 9,000 Minnesota female vets have served in the Middle East, dodging snipers alongside the men Finding a place for them is tough - in both military and civilian life

The sound of children's laughter burbles from across a park, and Mary Horgan suddenly is back behind the wheel of the hulking Humvee, navigating the narrow streets of an Iraqi village, terrified that one of the surging, smiling kids is being crushed beneath her wheels

"One time I know I saw a father pull a 2-year-old out of the way just in time," she said "I looked out at him, like, 'I'm so sorry,' and he just glared at me like, 'Why are you here?'"

The trucks never stopped rolling Look Observe Move Those were the convoy's standing orders -- emphasis on move "The young females, the ones with no kids, they were always, 'Go, go, go!' And I'm thinking, I'm worried about a kid in America Why shouldn't I worry about kids here?"

Horgan shifted in the café booth "I don't know if I ever hit a kid," she said carefully The ballsy soldier, who still wears her dog tags, suddenly was as tepid as her neglected tea "When I was going to war, it was to fight bad guys You're never told that there will be kids"

Women now make up about 15 percent of the armed forces and account for almost 8 percent of veterans, a number that's almost doubled in less than 10 years, according to the US Department of Veterans Affairs As more women return home, it's becoming more clear that returning to civilian life can be different for them than for men

They tend to shun veterans' services, and even counseling, often not considering themselves vets if they haven't been in direct combat Even Horgan brushes off her convoy duty through bomb-rigged territories: "I didn't really do anything," she shrugged

Yet the jarring nature of coming home also can lead to behaviors familiar to many troubled vets After her return, Horgan began drinking more, then driving at all hours, driving fast at 3 or 4 in the morning and drunk, so drunk "But I felt so alive," she said "It was all adrenaline I always got home safely because this -- driving -- was something I knew how to do really well"

By KIM ODE, Star Tribune
Last update: November 28, 2010 - 8:11 PM

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