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September 10, 2010

Jeremy Lange’s “War At Home”: Wounded Warriors

The second post of Jeremy Lange’s War At Home series:

Camp LeJeune, Jacksonville, North Carolina. The Wounded Warrior Battalion East was set up to provide a place for wounded Marines to recover as they work through the issues of their injuries and wade through the paperwork involved with possible discharge or reassignment within the Marine Corps.

Jeremy reports that “with little to do and at times heavily medicated, many of the Marines in the Battalion spend much of their days at the Battalion sleeping.” The vulnerability and pain of these soldiers is heartbreaking, even though there is little surprise at their predicament. Acronyms like PTSD and IED have so entered our vocabulary that we don’t even need to spell out the words that the initials stand for any more.

“Corporal Luke Kirby was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq and suffers from PTSD and possible traumatic brain injury. Due to his injuries, he is no longer able to remember details such as how to get from place to place or appointments he made. He spent his last days as a Marine, before being medically discharged, working out in the battalion gym.”

The body can be repaired, physical strength rehabilitated. But what comes next?

“Corporal Bobby Joseph, who suffered serious injury when an IED exploded near his patrol in Iraq, sits in the recreation room of the Wounded Warrior Battalion.”

President Obama made a speech from the Oval Office ten days ago, in which he said, “At every turn, America’s men and women in uniform have served with courage and resolve. As commander in chief, I am proud of their service. Like all Americans, I am awed by their sacrifice, and by the sacrifices of their families.” He tried hard to balance a non-partisan “support the troops” message with fulfilling his goal of ending a war he didn’t support, or at least winding it down to a level of minimal casualties for the army that will remain in Iraq.

But the question neither he, nor anyone, can truly answer is if all this death and suffering was in vain.

–Alan Chin

PHOTOGRAPHS by JEREMY LANGE

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  • thirdeye pushpin

    the red white and blue quilt seems like a fractured flag covering everything but the boots of the soldier…it is a great visual metaphor for what has happened to the soldiers ideals and souls in the process of participating in a war that had no justification

  • leathernecker

    studded

  • black dog barking

    But the question neither he, nor anyone, can truly answer is if all this death and suffering was in vain.

    In war your society, your social unit, charges you to undertake certain activities that this same social unit strongly discourages any other time. As a soldier you are given dispensation for these activities, your actions are “blessed”, forgiven in advance and honored when you return. The existence of PTSD argues that society’s blessing isn’t enough. The bare walls, cheap flooring, exposed wiring of this treatment center argue that there are limits to the extent our society is willing to accept responsibility for cases when our blessing isn’t enough.

    • thomas

      That’s really true, and I would add in that Iraq demonstrates that the nature of war has really changed vis-à-vis its relationship to society; in the multi-national, corporate, interdependent and institutionally complex world we live in today war isn’t so much politics by other means as it is bureaucracy by other means. The problem we had with Hussein in Iraq was more like an administrative issue with a department head who wasn’t complying with company policy. Which is why all of Bush’s invocations of deep religious and national obligations rang so hollow. It was a systems management struggle that got out of control. In other words, it is harder for us as a society to give the heroic, mythological justifications and blessings needed to heal from the trauma of war when war has become like the BP oil spill: a massive industrial operations failure, a disaster factory where little people die and suffer trying to get operations back on line, trying to restore order, trying to clean up after the self-isolating executive class.

  • thomas

    Also, this post really isn’t the place to complain about even modest physical suffering, but reading reversed type is totally headache-inducing and the red type on grey scheme is actually visually painful in addition to being almost completely illegible. There, I said it.

    • http://bagnews.com/staff/#mshaw Michael Shaw

      We did a couple tweaks on the black-to-gray when the designers were still involved. The scheme is almost the same as what the NYT is using with their Lens blog. The red is a tougher issue since the section is branded with that color. Given current resources, we ask some patience. I also feel it’s not fair to the Jeremy and this subject matter to hash this out here. Perhaps we will run an open thread soon for general site feedback.

  • http://bagnews.com/staff/#mshaw Michael Shaw

    I think the red-white-blue is significant, and that the quilt delivers even more in terms of symbolic weight. It feels like a real piece of Americana. It has a by-hand, arts-and-crafts and also “folk” quality to it — creating intense emotional contrasts to: war without logic, war without sense, war far from home.

    …And then, there’s also just the analogy of someone having a sheet pulled up over their head.

    • black dog barking

      Quilts are often community projects, physically and symbolically weaving otherwise useless scraps into works of practical beauty and comfort. Camos share some stylistic similarity with quilts but carry none of the symbolic comfort. Neither do the boots. In fact, boots “off the ground” as well as boots on the couch remind us that something is wrong here.

    • http://bagnews.com/staff/#mshaw Michael Shaw

      bdb,

      Yeah, another subtle element about something wrong: The EVENTS sign, cut off at the top, lends a bit of vibe that “we might have an event” here.

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