What does war do to a person? It doesn’t take a series of shocking photographs to tell us it impacts a person’s mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. That doesn’t make the following photos any less upsetting.
Talented filmmaker Lalage Snow decided to show exactly what happens to a person who has been to hell and back using photographs and interviews.
She photographed and interviewed 14 members of the 1stBattalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland. Once before they were sent to Afghanistan, then again three months into their deployment, and just days after returning home from deployment.
She titled the touching series “We Are Not The Dead.” The goal was to expose the trauma war inflicts upon a person, causing serious psychological and physical changes that you can see quite literally written on their faces.
Even if you already know how much war changes a person – it’s still shocking to see just how much it changes one’s face. It looks like decades could have spanned between some of these images, and yet, it’s been mere months or just a few years.
Lalage Snow “We Are The Not Dead”
Fighting in Afghanistan is no easy task. It takes a serious toll on the brave men and women who embark on the journey. A toll soldiers are forced to pay for the rest of their lives.
Take a moment to notice the physical changes these photos present. The eyes change, wrinkles appear, dark circles sprout beneath sad eyes. It’s as if each individual has aged an entire lifetime.
Soldiers must be brave, so brave that they must learn to detach from all emotion. As a result, it is only human nature to fall prey to depression, alcoholism, and even suicide.
In fact, veterans are twice as likely to die by suicide than civilians.
The first photos depict nervousness, uncertainty for the future, fear to leave behind their family and loved ones.
The second photos show the soldiers in the thick of the battle – detached emotionally, just trying to survive and be brave, get through each day.
The last photos offer a mix of relief, fear, and regret.
You can make all the judgements you want about what you ‘think’ you see shining through each photo, but only the soldiers themselves can truly understand the pain, fear, sadness, and agony that has become their reality.
No two soldiers are the same. Some still feel human in every sense, ready to bounce back from the horrors they’ve experienced.
Others feel broken beyond repair – a pile of shattered glass that no one knows how to mend back together.
Lalage Snow’s interviews with the soldiers are incredibly telling.
On March 11, in an interview with Private Chris MacGregor, a 24-year-old man with so much life ahead of him, the soon-to-be-deployed soldier said:
“Obviously I’ll miss family but other than that I am going to miss my dogs more than anything. They are my de-stressers and keep me sane. I think I’ll miss TV too though. I try not to think about the worst case scenario.”
On June 19, from Compound 19, he shared his thoughts after an IED accident:
“Most people get used to being away from home but I find it hard. It’s your fear that keeps you alive here. But I believe if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen and theres nothing you can do about it. If the big man upstairs could do anything, there’d be no dead soldiers. They’d all be alive.”
“It still hurts when you hear about a soldier dying. You think about what their families are going through. You ask what they died for and what we are achieving here. I am not sure any more. That Afghan soldier losing his legs just now… I don’t know…”
Shortly thereafter, in August, MacGregor found himself back home in Edinburgh after sustaining a knee injury in Iraq. He explained:
“My legs just gave up. I think it was the weight – 135 pounds or something. I just had to accept, my body was telling me to give up as I had pushed it. I was telling it to go, it was telling me to stop.”
“When squaddies come back they still have a lot of adrenaline and anger in them. I had to have anger management after Iraq. If I get like that now, I just go for a walk with the dogs. It is the best way to deal with it, instead of being all tense and ready to snap at folk.”
“The first thing I did when I came back, apart from kissing and cuddling the misses and my bairn, was go for a massive walk with the dogs. I walked for miles and miles not caring where I stepped.”
Don’t ever forget to thank and honor all service men and women. They risk it all for us; not only their lives, but their sanity and peace of mind.