The Unknown Soldiers. is one story after another about the individual service members, and their families, who have given their lives or limbs for a greater cause. The stories are painful to read, as each one brings tears to the eyes and a tidal wave of emotion. It is difficult to justify drowning in sorrow, when the spouses and family members of the fallen and wounded describe their determination to continue on, in the memory of their loved one.
These soldiers, marines, and airmen believed they were a part of something greater than themselves. They fought and died for their buddies, their families, and their country. Most people will never know why or how the military can bring out the desire to be an instrument of change. Politics is meaningless and irrelevant to those who have seen the true faces of oppression and death. Preventing the bad guys from oppressing and killing the innocent and helpless is a noble and just cause. People can call this jingoism or idealistic, but in the end, all things can be reduced to their most basic components. You can fight to protect others or you can talk about it, but if the bad guys are willing to die for their beliefs then words will not prevent anyone from dying, and you can only hide for so long before they come to force their beliefs on you.
I am thankful for their sacrifices, everyday. The broken minds and bodies of our wounded warriors must be given the full care and attention that we give the smallest child. They have thrown themselves in harm’s way, so that we can comfortably squabble over semantics. They will continue to do it, because that is what you do, when you know that someone has to stand up to the bad guys.
Update: Apparently wordpress only allows specific video links when you aren’t paying them. So no more embedding, just links to the videos.
NYT video Drawing Warriors: Art as Documentation and Therapy for Wounded Vets
THE JOE BONHAM PROJECT represents the efforts of wartime illustrators to document the struggles of U.S. service personnel undergoing rehabilitation after traumatic front-line injury. Formed in early 2011 by Michael D. Fay, the Project takes its name from the central character in Johnny Got His Gun, Dalton Trumbo’s 1938 novel of a World War I soldier unable to communicate with the outside world due to the extent of his wounds. Scheduled to coincide with the tenth anniversary of the attacks of September 11, the exhibition will mark the silent sacrifices of American soldiers in the ensuing decade-long conflict.
The blog link has some gut-wrenching pieces on display. There is an emotional and visceral quality, in these sketches of wounded veterans, that isn’t inherent in photography. The illustrator in the video touches upon this effect, when he mentions the intimacy that a drawing creates. There is no relationship between the photographer and the subject, simply because it takes mere seconds to preserve an image. Illustration captures a memory, a personality, it spans time in a way that a photograph is simply incapable of conveying. I liked the fact that the artists (in the video) learn to see the soldiers as individuals, and they are drawn (no pun intended) into their lives and the circumstances that led them, both the artists and the soldiers, to this place. How often does the art world cross into the world of war, and how often do artists come face to face with broken bodies, faces hiding pain behind humor, and the only defensible position they have left, their pride?