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Home From War, Female Veteran Discovers Not All Military Service Is Valued Equally

This story originally aired on April 30, 2016.

Vanessa Davids did most of her military service “inside the wire,” as an Arabic translator on a base in Iraq. Her job called on her to translate audio and video recordings, in hopes of gathering intelligence, foiling attacks and probing enemy action. She translated bomb plots, beheadings, even in some cases child pornography. As a result, she got an intimate, and dark, perspective on human nature.

“Doing the work that I did, it really seemed to me at the time that evil was in every single person, and it was just a matter of how well they hid it from you,” Davids said.

But upon returning from her deployment, she discovered that not all military service is treated equally by either the military itself, her fellow vets, or the civilians she now moved uncomfortably among.

As a female vet, she was often mistake for a “real” veteran’s wife or girlfriend. And as someone who did a majority of her service within the confines of that Army base, she discovered that some soldiers played down what she went through.

And to make matters worse, she says her own husband at the time, himself a Marine Corps veteran, didn’t want to hear about Davids’ wartime experiences. That left her saddled with a sense of anger and isolation that she says took years to overcome. The WSU grad, who now lives in Portland, spoke with Sound Effect host Gabriel Spitzer about what it has been like to process her experiences in a world that doesn’t always value her contribution. 

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.
Sound Effect producer Allie Ferguson has been making radio for nearly 5 years. She got her start at KUOW and has since traveled the country working for national news shows including WNYC's The Takeaway and NPR's Weekend All Things Considered. Allie won a 2016 Gracie Award, which celebrates women in media, for her work at KUOW. She enjoys telling surprising stories about passionate people.