Lee Countian documents life of female soldier - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Lee Countian documents life of female soldier

July 18, 2005

Albany-- Female Soldiers are playing a much bigger role in the War in Iraq than any other time in American history. A young woman from Lee County just returned from serving 14 months in Iraq. Her pictures bring life for a woman soldier in this war to focus.

Twenty-two-year-old Army Specialist Keri Coxwell says downtown Baghdad was a long way from her South Georgia upbringing. "At first it was quite a culture shock," she says.

Wearing body armor and carrying a M-16 at all times, the Lee County native learned quickly to live in a war zone. Coxwell said, "You get used to all the sound effects, and the things going on around you. Of course, you are scared."

Female soldiers are closer to the fighting than ever in Iraq. Coxwell spent over a year in Central Baghdad in Signal Corps, setting up Internet, phone, and Teleconferencing equipment.

She has a picture of her generator, dented by a mortar shell, that was a dud. Coxwell said, "There are no longer front lines in the war. You play your role. You protect yourself, but you also have soldiers that you protect as well."

Coxwell says her best memories of Iraq are the people, especially the children. "That little kid, he was so funny. See how he has five toothbrushes. These children did not speak any English. There were like twenty kids, and he was one of the first ones that came up, and I handed him a toothbrush. He kinda got in the back, and all I could see was his little arm. So I handed him another one, he was so excited. He was just freaking out."

Coxwell says she knows she made a difference for the women in Iraq. "They are not under Saddam's rule anymore. For them to see a woman from the United States, in uniform, protecting her country, standing up for herself, those women respect that."

Specialist Keri Coxwell says the Army is not for all women, but she is proud of her service in Iraq. Coxwell is now working in the Army's hometown recruiting program in Albany.

Wednesday she returns to her base in Fort Hood, Texas.

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