Nina Berman: Purple Hearts Back from Iraq
A Purple Heart, the honour given to soldiers for their wounds, is one that many cling to when faced with the realities of both the return home and their time at war.
The images are accompanied by first person interviews with the young soldiers who discuss their lives, reasons for enlisting, experiences in Iraq and their prospects as disabled veterans, some of them blind, some without limbs, others brain damaged and wheel-chair bound.
The words and photos make for a complex portrait of American youth, their values, their dreams, the lack of opportunity facing them upon high school graduation, and the myths of warfare which informed their decisions to join.
One soldier explained that he always wanted to be a hero and thought the military would be fun. He never imagined an RPG attack in Fallujah would leave him a cripple unable to care for a wife and two children. Another described calling the recruiting station after he saw an MTV-style Army commercial on TV. An immigrant from Pakistan, he was given his citizenship following his injury, a fair trade in his mind, a leg for an American passport. Yet another soldier left a crime, drug ridden neighbourhood in Alabama, only to return 100 percent disabled back where he started but now bedridden.
The photographs are accompanied by essays from Verlyn Klinkenborg, an author and editorial writer for the New York Times, and Tim Origer, a Vietnam veteran and former Marine who fought in the Tet offensive. He came back a 19 year-old amputee.