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upworthy
Joy

10 photos of seriously wounded vets remind us about the real costs of war.

Their wounds belong to all of us.

democracy, justice, wounded veterans, documentation, portraits
Image by David Jay/ David Jay Photography.

Maj, Matt Smith at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.


Photographer David Jay specializes in fashion and beauty, stuff that's "beautiful and sexy — and completely untrue," as he puts it. But that's not all he photographs.

Three years ago, Jay began to take pictures of young, severely wounded soldiers returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Trigger warning: These portraits don't shy away from wounded bodies.


Be prepared. I found them shocking at first. But keep looking. The more I looked, the more beauty and humanity I found reflected here. (The photo captions are from the Jay's Unknown Soldier Project Facebook page. All images used with permission.)

military, body image, disabilities

Lt. Nicholas John Vogt, U.S. Army

Image by David Jay/ David Jay Photography.

This is 1st Lt. Nicholas John Vogt, U.S. Army. On Nov. 12, 2011, he was severely injured by an IED while on a foot-patrol in Panjwaii, Afghanistan. We took these pictures this past weekend in the swimming pool at Walter Reed Medical Center. I asked Nicholas for his permission to post these images and 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." Image by David Jay/ David Jay Photography. All images used with permission.

In a National Public Radio interview about his project, Jay said, "You can imagine how many times each of these men and women have heard a parent tell their child, 'Don't look. Don't stare at him. That's rude.'"

"I take these pictures so that we can look; we can see what we're not supposed to see. And we need to see them because we created them." — David Jay
photography, mental health, veteran rights

Taking a swim.

Image by David Jay/ David Jay Photography.

Jay wants us to see, to become even a little familiar with the tragic loss of limbs and burned skin of wounded vets — his portraits are 4 feet wide — but he also wants us to see them as people and to think about their experiences and those of people in their lives.

health, David Jay, The Unknown Soldier

Bobby Bernier with daughter Layla.

Image by David Jay/ David Jay Photography.

This past week, I went to San Antonio, Texas. There I had the privilege of photographing both Daniel Burgess and Bobby Bernier. They are friends. Daniel stepped on a IED, losing one leg and destroying the other. Bobby was hit by incoming artillery, sustaining burns over 60% of his body. He is pictured here with his daughter Layla.

IED, Maj. Matt Smith, Afghanistan

Maj, Matt Smith at Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

Image by David Jay/ David Jay Photography.

This is Maj. Matt Smith. This past week, Matt allowed me to photograph him in his room at the Walter Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Less than three months ago, on June 8, 2013, in Paktika province, Afghanistan, 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. A private and soulful man, it was an honor to photograph him. Thank you, Maj. Smith.

disabled, war, amputee

Spc. Marissa Stock injured by an IED.

Image by David Jay/David Jay Photography.

burn victim, roadside bomb, survivor

Jerral Hancock survived a roadside bomb.

Image by David Jay/ David Jay Photography.

This is Jerral Hancock. He was driving a tank in Iraq. A roadside bomb pierced the armor, breaching the interior. We shot these pics two weeks ago at his home in Lancaster, California, where Jarral lives with his two beautiful children. We ended up hanging out into the night, smokin' ciggys ... so I kept taking pictures.

"To the men and women of The Unknown Soldier, I can't thank you enough for your courage and sacrifice ... both on and off the battlefield. It is an honor to photograph you." — David Jay
swimming, photography, internal injuries, Airborne Ranger

SFC Cedric King floats in the pool.

Image by David Jay/David Jay Photography.

On July 25, 2012, SFC Cedric King, an Airborne Ranger, was severely injured by an IED while serving his country in Afghanistan. Due to the explosion, Cedric sustained a multitude of internal and external injuries, losing both his legs. Cedric was doing his laps while I was photographing 1st Lt. Nicholas Vogt in the pool at Walter Reed Medical Center last week. Cedric kept watching, so I had to ask. Cedric said, “That man (Nicholas) doesn't know it, but he changed my life. There was a point when I was so down that I thought I couldn't go on. And then one day I saw him swimming ... and I just thought, wow ... if he can go on like that, then I can go on too." Cedric will also change people's lives. Already has.

Marine, foot-patrol, Afghan Army

Michael Fox, 27-year-old Marine.

Image by David Jay/David Jay Photography.

This is Michael Fox, a 27-year-old Marine and an amazing man. On Nov. 15, 2011, Michael was on foot-patrol in the Helmand province of Afghanistan. His is the first picture of "The Unknown Soldier."

The SCAR Project, battle-scarred, therapy

Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris in Houston, Texas.

Image by David Jay/David Jay Photography.

This past weekend, I photographed Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris in Houston, Texas. He came up from San Antonio to see one of my other exhibitions, The SCAR Project (www.thescarproject.org). Shilo was severely burned on Feb. 19, 2007, by a roadside bomb estimated at 700 pounds. He lost three men out of a crew of five. Only Shilo and his driver survived the blast. Shilo has a book coming out soon. He is truly an amazing man, and I am honored to call him a friend.

"The Unknown Soldier is about neither war or politics ... but rather something infinitely simpler and more powerful." — David Jay
healing, medicine, remedy, hope

Thomas Young in Kansas City, MO.

Image by David Jay/ David Jay Photography.

The Library of Congress has acquired images from Jay's The Unknown Soldier project as part of its documentation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This speaks to the power of these images in capturing war's aftermath. But they are so much more than documentation.

Pictures like these help those of us who remain at home to begin to comprehend the true human cost of war.


This article originally appeared on 05.31.15

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Photo by David R. Tribble/Wikimedia Commons.

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Commence epic reply...


(full text transcribed under the post).

A Facebook user recently commented that the Eagles had "played like they were wearing tutus!!!"

Our response:

"With all due respect to the Eagles, let's take a minute to look at what our tutu wearing women have done this month:

By tomorrow afternoon, the ballerinas that wear tutus at Pennsylvania Ballet will have performed The Nutcracker 27 times in 21 days. Some of those women have performed the Snow scene and the Waltz of the Flowers without an understudy or second cast. No 'second string' to come in and spell them when they needed a break. When they have been sick they have come to the theater, put on make up and costume, smiled and performed. When they have felt an injury in the middle of a show there have been no injury timeouts. They have kept smiling, finished their job, bowed, left the stage, and then dealt with what hurts. Some of these tutu wearers have been tossed into a new position with only a moments notice. That's like a cornerback being told at halftime that they're going to play wide receiver for the second half, but they need to make sure that no one can tell they've never played wide receiver before. They have done all of this with such artistry and grace that audience after audience has clapped and cheered (no Boo Birds at the Academy) and the Philadelphia Inquirer has said this production looks "better than ever".

So no, the Eagles have not played like they were wearing tutus. If they had, Chip Kelly would still be a head coach and we'd all be looking forward to the playoffs."

Happy New Year!

In case it wasn't obvious, toughness has nothing to do with your gender.

Gendered and homophobic insults in sports have been around basically forever — how many boys are called a "pansy" on the football field or told they "throw like a girl" in Little League?

"They played like they were wearing tutus" is the same deal. It's shorthand for "You're kinda ladylike, which means you're not tough enough."

Pure intimidation.

Photo by Ralph Daily/Flickr.

Toughness, however, has a funny way of not being pinned to one particular gender. It's not just ballerinas, either. NFL cheerleaders? They get paid next to nothing to dance in bikini tops and short-shorts in all kinds of weather — and wear only ever-so-slightly heavier outfits when the thermometer drops below freezing. And don't even get me started on how mind-bogglingly badass the Rockettes are.

Toughness also has nothing to do with what kind of clothes you wear.

As my colleague Parker Molloy astutely points out, the kinds of clothes assigned to people of different genders are, and have always been, basically completely arbitrary. Pink has been both a "boys color" and a "girls color" at different points throughout history. President Franklin D. Roosevelt — longtime survivor of polio, Depression vanquisher, wartime leader, and no one's idea of a wimp — was photographed in his childhood sporting a long blonde hairstyle and wearing a dress.

Many of us are conditioned to see a frilly pink dance costume and think "delicate," and to look at a football helmet and pads and think "big and strong." But scratch the surface a little bit, and you'll meet tutu-wearing ballerinas who that are among toughest people on the planet and cleat-and-helmet-wearing football players who are ... well. The 2015 Eagles.

You just can't tell from their outerwear.

Ballerinas wear tutus for the same reason football players wear uniforms and pads:

Photo by zaimoku_woodpile/Flickr.


To get the job done.


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