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2 Photographers Document American War Veterans A Decade After War in the Middle East

2 Photographers Document American War Veterans A Decade After War in the Middle East

War is never a simple subject matter to discuss but the sobering truth is that today's wars are vastly different from the wars of our grandfathers. Veterans of the continuous wars in the Middle East are coming home with physical and mental scars to last a lifetime. 

Famed photographers David Jay and James Nachtwey have taken on a difficult task by documenting American veterans who were badly wounded fighting in the Iraqi and Afghanistan wars following their return home. 

In their own words the photographers speak of how this experience has an impact. 

Nachtwey says:

I have been a witness, and these pictures are my testimony. The events I have recorded should not be forgotten and must not be repeated.

In 2016, Jay’s project was compiled into a series called 'Unknown Soldier' and was a finalist in the Portrait category for the Magnum Photography Awards. He says of his photos:

[they are] an opportunity to open a dialogue about issues we are not necessarily comfortable with…and also issues that we are responsible for. The images can be uncomfortable for the viewer. It forces us to confront our fears and inhibitions about life, death, sexuality, sickness, relationships, etc. Reality is not always pretty. This is reality. Let’s address it.


1. Jerral Hancock

Jerral Hancock was driving a tank in Iraq. A roadside bomb pierced the armor, breaching the interior. Today, Jerral lives in Lancaster with his two, beautiful children.

via:David Jay

2. Matt Smith

On June 8, 2013, in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, Major Matt was shot along with five others by a member of the Afghan National Army. The bullet severed his femoral artery resulting in the amputation of his leg.

via:David Jay

3. Stephanie Morris

Army Specialist Stephanie Morris suffered leg injuries in an attack in Afghanistan. With physical therapy, she has since run the Army ten-miler. “I have to do it for them,” she says, speaking of the friends she lost in the attack.

via:James Nachtwey
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4. Nicholas John Vogt

On November 12, 2011, army first lieutenant Nicholas was severely injured by an IED while on a foot-patrol in Panjwaii, Afghanistan. After asking Nicholas for his permission to post these images, this was his response: “The only thing that I want to pass on is this: Losing limbs is like losing a good friend. We wish we could still be with them, but it wasn't 'in the cards'. Then we get up, remember the good times, and thank God for whatever we have left.“

via:David Jay

5. Marissa Strock

Marissa Strock was injured when her vehicle was struck by an IED buried in the road. She was 20 years old.

via:David Jay

6. Shilo Harris

SSG Shilo Harris lives in Houston. Shilo was severely burned on February 19th, 2007 by a road side bomb estimated at 700 lbs. He lost three men out of a crew of 5. Only Shilo and his driver survived the blast.

via:David Jay
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7. Bobby Henline

Bobby Henline was the only survivor after being trapped inside a transport when he was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq.

via:David Jay

8. Jason Pak

On Dec. 13, 2012, First Lieutenant Jason Pak was on a foot patrol in Zangabad, Afghanistan when an IED exploded. The blast took Jason's legs (and part of his hand) but it could not take his spirit .

via:David Jay

9. Allan Armstrong

Army staff sergeant Allan Armstrong was deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan four times. He had just finished training when a motorcycle crash took his leg. He has since placed first in the 2014 Warrior Games in the 100 and 200 meter sprints.

via:James Nachtwey

10. Tomas Young

Tomas Young enlisted in the army two days after the 2001 September 11th attacks. Five days after being sent to Iraq, he was shot in the spine while riding in an unarmored vehicle in Sadr City, leaving him paralyzed. He died in 2014 (about a year and a half after this photo was taken) due to complications from his injuries.

via:David Jay

11. Jose Ramos

Retired Navy hospital corpsman Jose Ramos lost an arm in an Iraqi rocket attack. He expects to participate in the 2016 Paralympics. “Running is what I do to relax,” he says.

via:James Nachtwey

12. Bobby Bernier

Bobby was hit by incoming artillery, sustaining burns over 60% of his body. He is pictured here with his daughter Layla.

via:David Jay

13. Cedric King

Cedric King lost both of his legs to an IED in Afghanistan. His daughters talked him into trying swimming, and from there he finished the 2014 Boston Marathon in just over six hours; completed a Half Ironman race, and the New York City marathon. He is also a motivational speaker.

via:James Nachtwey

14. Bo Reichenbach

This Navy Seal is 25 years old and was injured on July, 17th 2012 in Afghanistan.

via:David Jay

15. Matthew Aiken

EOD Ssg Matthew Aiken. On April 3, 2013, Matt was injured while clearing an IED site on Kandahar.

via:David Jay

16. Christian Brown

Marine CPL Christian Brown at the Walter Reed Medical Center. On Dec. 13, 2011, Christian was leading his squad on foot patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. Both of his legs were blown off- one above the knee, the other below the hip. Just four days prior, under heavy enemy fire, Christian had carried a mortally wounded Marine almost 1,000 feet to a hovering helicopter.

via:David Jay
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