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Ever Wished You Had A Friend Who Could Tell You What War Is Like? Here Are Almost 100.

Whether you’re for the war or against it, the stories of the lives it's touched deserve to be told. This project has collected almost a hundred voices that have changed because of experiences in Iraq or Afghanistan.

Ever Wished You Had A Friend Who Could Tell You What War Is Like? Here Are Almost 100.

"100 Faces of War Experience: Portraits and Words of Americans Who Served in Iraq and Afghanistan." All photos provided by artist Matt Mitchell. Here is the entire portrait gallery.



Jeffrey Michael Lucey
Letter Written Before Embarking on a Dangerous Mission
Baby,
If you have this letter, I am no longer around. This was not written to make you cry, but to let you know that because of you I lived a happy and complete life. Because of you I was able to experience what real love is and how wonderful the feeling, to truly be in love. Of course we also showed each other how frustrated we could really get but I wouldn’t even change that. You were the only person I ever loved but I don’t want that to be so for you. Live your life and enjoy every moment. I will always be there with you, watching you, and since you’re alive don’t play dead; live and find love again. Make some guy as happy as you made me, but make sure he treats you better than I did. You are an angel and deserve to be treated like a goddess.
After returning Jeffrey Lucey took his own life as a result of post-traumatic stress.

Scott Palmer
Statement Spoken Into a Recorder
It was my third day in country...the first guy from our company got killed.
We were using light skinned Humvees. We'd be packed, usually 8 to 10 guys per Humvee, in four vehicles going down the road. We'd basically be used to draw fire. You can't draw out guerrilla insurgents unless you have some reason for them to attack you--you know what I'm saying? So we spent a lot of time in unarmored vehicles playing sitting duck. Waiting to draw fire or hit one of these mechanicals. We filled up ration boxes--cardboard boxes--with sand taping them and tying them to the sides of the Humvee. People would get hit in Humvees--a lot--over there and those MRE boxes didn't do much but slow us down.

When I got back I went to school. During my first semester at Holyoke Community College a team of U.S. Army recruiters had this blinged out Humvee. It was like a recruiting model Humvee, with a big "Go Army" logo on the side. It had a huge amp, enormous cables, and sub-woofers-- it was probably a several thousand dollar sound system with a big 100 disc CD changer in it.
And I think that is... At the time I thought that was the most disgusting, misleading, thing to advertise the military with. What they should have done is have some pictures of what Humvees really look like, and what they look like after they get hit with improvised explosive devices and while people are still in them.

Nicole A. Costigan
Letters home
February 2007 – We recently transported one soldier who was intubated, but still alert during the flight. He asked me for a pen and paper. He asked if he was going to die. He asked us to please not let him die. I’m not giving out paper anymore.

April 2011 – While I was packaging my patient in the ICU for the flight to Germany, I noticed giant tears rolling down his face. Ten feet from us an American flag was being draped over a young soldier’s body. I followed other staff members into the ER. We all lined up at attention and gave this young soldier a salute as his lifeless body was wheeled by us. I can’t begin to describe what I was feeling at that moment. I felt like he was there, crying with the rest of us because his life was taken much too soon.

I have the best job in the Air Force. It’s not a pretty job and I’ll never be the same person I was before I left for my first deployment. I’ve seen how war has scarred lives in more ways than any of us will ever be able to comprehend. It has ruined a part of me too, deep inside, but I will continue to do it because it is the most rewarding experience I will have in this lifetime.

Rick Yarosh
Written Statement
Whether it's a look in the mirror, or the thought of a lost friend , it all goes back to that day.
Sergeant Luis Montes, Specialist Andrew Loe and I loaded into our Bradley, ready for a full day of patrols. After a short time, our vehicle was hit by an IED. The fuel cell ignited and engulfed us in flames.

We escaped the Bradley exceptionally fast. I escaped out the top hatch of the turret. I knew I needed to get off the vehicle. With my face on fire, I didn't know where the edge of the Bradley was and when I did find the edge I didn't know where the ground was. When I jumped off the Bradley I broke my right leg, severing an artery, which resulted in an amputation.

“Stop drop and roll” is no way to put out a fire when you're covered in fuel. I found that out while I was rolling on the ground, doing nothing but setting the grass on fire. I ended up rolling in a canal, which extinguished the flames.

The lost friend I speak of is Sergeant Luis Montes, he passed away due to his injuries seven days later. Specialist Andrew Loe survived with 20% burns, but the thought of that incident goes through his mind every day. I'm lucky and blessed to be here, I'm able to share my story with others.
That day started the same as every other day, but that day has never ended.





















People often think of government bureaucrats as being boring stuffed shirts, but whoever runs social media at the National Park Service is proving that at least some of them have a sense of humor.

In a Facebook post, the NPS shared some seasonal advice for park-goers about what to do if they happen to encounter a bear, and it's both helpful and hilarious. Not that a confrontation with a bear in real life is a laughing matter—bears can be dangerous—but humor is a good way to get people to pay attention to important advice.

They wrote:

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People often think of government bureaucrats as being boring stuffed shirts, but whoever runs social media at the National Park Service is proving that at least some of them have a sense of humor.

In a Facebook post, the NPS shared some seasonal advice for park-goers about what to do if they happen to encounter a bear, and it's both helpful and hilarious. Not that a confrontation with a bear in real life is a laughing matter—bears can be dangerous—but humor is a good way to get people to pay attention to important advice.

They wrote:

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."