The extra hazards of being a female soldier in Iraq.
As part of the Illinois National Guard's 233rd Military Police Company, Middleton, 20, of Eureka must feel a bit like Alice after falling through the looking glass. She and her unit were activated in February and arrived in Baghdad in April, days after the fall of Saddam Hussein. They expect to be here until next April.
Her MP duties along banks of the Tigris River are a far cry from her days not long ago waiting tables at Hooters along the Illinois River in Peoria.
"Yes, I was a Hooters girl," she said, standing on the rooftop of the barracks of the 233rd's 1st and 4th Platoons, the Reapers and the Crusaders, respectively...
In a culture where women are expected to be less visible in public, the sight of a woman standing in a Humvee turret or shouldering an M-16 rifle on the street is an outright spectacle.
Spc. Erica Clark, 21, of Belleville said one man offered five goats for her hand in marriage. Angela Carner, 20, of Dupo said one Iraqi told her she should respect him just because he's a man.
Spc. Rebecca Power, 22, of Springfield has treated two civilians, one for a gunshot wound and another for a heart attack.
"They're amazed by American women," she said of the Iraqis she encounters on patrol.
Blondes especially strike them.
"They try to reach up and touch it," Power said of her own blonde hair. "I hear them say, "Will you marry me? I love you.' It happens all the time."