Wars never really end, because even though they may finish on the battlefield, many veterans bring the war back home and are forced to live with them for the rest of their lives.
This sad and sobering truth is highlighted by Photographers like David Jay and James Nachtwey, who have been documenting young and badly wounded American soldiers following their return home from wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“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,” writes Nachtwey, while Jay’s project, compiled into a series called Unknown Soldier, was a finalist in the Portrait category for the Magnum Photography Awards 2016.
Talking about his pictures, Jay wrote that they present “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 Bobby Henline
Bobby Henline was trapped inside a transport when he was hit by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He was the only survivor.
#2 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. “
#3 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.
#4 Jerral Hancock
Jerral Hancock was driving a tank in Iraq. A roadside bomb pierced the armor, breaching the interior. Jarral lives in Lancaster with his two, beautiful children.
#5 Jason Pak
First Lieutenant Jason Pak On Dec. 13, 2012 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 .
#6 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.
#7 Bobby Bernier
Bobby was hit by incoming artillery, sustaining burns over 60% of his body. He is pictured here with his daughter Layla
#8 Spc. Marissa Strock
Marissa Strock was injured when her vehicle was struck by an IED buried in the road. She was 20 years old.
#9 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.
#10 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.
#11 Joel Tavera
Joel, now 26, was injured in Iraq at age 20. Severely burned, blinded, a leg lost and over 90 surgeries later. Joel had this to say: “Looks are deceiving . . . what looks like a half empty glass is actually three-quarters full”.
#12 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.
#13 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.
#14 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.
#15 Navy Seal
This is Navy Seal, Bo Reichenbach. 25 years old. He was injured on July, 17th 2012 in Afghanistan.
#16 Adam Hartswick
Army combat medic Sergeant Adam Hartswick lost his legs and suffered a brain injury while treating wounded soldiers in Afghanistan. He is in virtual-reality therapy, and has learned to walk again.
#17 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.
#18 Wayne Waldon
Retired Army Captain Wayne Waldon lost a leg in Baghdad, Iraq. Seven years later, he not only walks, but is an adaptive snowboarding champion. “The prosthetic leg doesn’t feel stuck to me anymore,” he says. “It has become part of me."
#19 Daniel Burgess
Daniel stepped on a IED, losing one leg and destroying the other.
#20 David Bixler
Army Corporal David Bixler lost both legs while serving in Afghanistan.
#21 Matthew Aiken
EOD Ssg Matthew Aiken. On April 3, 2013, Matt was injured while clearing an IED site on Kandahar.
#22 Michael Fox
Michael Fox, a 27 year old Marine. On November 15, 2011 Michael was on foot patrol in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan.