Purple Hearts

by Nina Berman

 

Purple Hearts is a series of portraits and interviews with American military who returned from Iraq severely wounded. It gives an intimate understanding of the human cost of war through the experiences of American soldiers.

While their physical wounds are extreme, the primary focus of the visual reportage is the psychological condition and the struggle to find identity and purpose in the aftermath of war. A divide exists between those who live the war each day - Iraqis, American troops, their families - and those for whom war is a distant incomprehensible abstraction.

Pfc. Randall Clunen, 19 years old, 101st Airborne, stationed in Tal Afar, was pulling guard December 8, 2003 when a suicide bomber broke through security and exploded himself and his vehicle. Chunks of shrapnel ripped into Clunen's face. Here, photographed at his home in Salem, Ohio, USA, February 14, 2004.

Pfc. Randall Clunen, 19 years old, 101st Airborne, stationed in Tal Afar, was pulling guard December 8, 2003 when a suicide bomber broke through security and exploded himself and his vehicle. Chunks of shrapnel ripped into Clunen's face. Here, photographed at his home in Salem, Ohio, USA, February 14, 2004.

The soldiers portrayed throughout this project represent a small number of the 5,394 American serviceman and women wounded in action and the estimated 11,000 others in combat support during the first fifteen months of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq.

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"Most of my friends they were losing it out there. They woud do anything to get out of there, do anything. I had one of my guys, he used to tell me, "my wife just had my son. I can't wait to get home and see him." And, you know, he died out there. He sure did and I have to think about that everyday.

Well, uh, shrapnel down the back, shrapnel that came in and hit my head, punctured my lungs. I broke both of my arms. I lost a kidney. My intestines was messed up. They took an artery out of my left leg and put it into this rightarm. They pretty much took my life. Pretty much."

Cpl. Tyson Johnson

From top left to right: Spc. Adam Zaremba, PFC. Alan Jermaine Lewis, Platoon Sergeant Jogn Quincy Adams with his wife.
From bottom left to right: Cpl. Tyson Johnson, Lt. Jordan Johnson, Spc. Carl Sampson

My intention with this work is to make that abstraction more intimately felt.
— Nina Berman
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The blast, I don't remember it. Didnt feel it. I do remeber crawling across the ground, my hands and knees, going into the house to get the dismounts out, cause I thought they were hurt.

It took off my scalp, left side of my face, my ear was hanging off, my left ear. I got shrap metal in the chest, shrap metal in my legs from the knees down and both my legs were broken."

Sgt. Joseph Mosner

A precise number of combat support or non-hostile injuries is not known. The Pentagon omits from its casualty reports those soldiers medically evacuated from Iraq due to friendly fire, sickness accidents or psychological trauma even through many of these soldiers are severely injured and permanently disabled.

Iraqi casualities are not counted at all. 


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