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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.

"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.





















10/10. The Mayyas dance.

We can almost always expect to see amazing acts and rare skills on “America’s Got Talent.” But sometimes, we get even more than that.

The Mayyas, a Lebanese women’s dance troupe whose name means “proud walk of a lioness,” delivered a performance so mesmerizing that judge Simon Cowell called it the “best dance act” the show has ever seen, winning them an almost instant golden buzzer.

Perhaps this victory comes as no surprise, considering that the Mayyas had previously won “Arab’s Got Talent” in 2019 and competed on “Britain’s Got Talent: The Champions.” But truly, it’s what motivates them to take to the stage that’s remarkable.

“Lebanon is a very beautiful country, but we live a daily struggle," one of the dancers said to the judges just moments before their audition. Another explained, “being a dancer as a female Arab is not fully supported yet.”

Nadim Cherfan, the team’s choreographer, added that “Lebanon is not considered a place where you can build a career out of dancing, so it’s really hard, and harder for women.”

Still, Cherfan shared that it was a previous “AGT” star who inspired the Mayyas to defy the odds and audition anyway. Nightbirde, a breakout singer who also earned a golden buzzer before tragically passing away in February 2021 due to cancer, had told the audience, “You can't wait until life isn't hard anymore before you decide to be happy.” The dance team took the advice to heart.

For the Mayyas, coming onto the “AGT” stage became more than an audition opportunity. Getting emotional, one of the dancers declared that it was “our only chance to prove to the world what Arab women can do, the art we can create, the fights we fight.”

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