purple hearts: back from iraq
It’s hard to say just when the word “hero” went bankrupt. But in the aftermath of 9/11, America became, to its own mind, a nation of heroes. We spread the word around like butter on toast. It has become cultural pabulum, a national panacea, a psychological commonplace.
The subjects of these photographs are soldiers who were wounded in Iraq.
Whatever they may feel about their condition now, these men tend to sum up the war in Iraq in simple, blunt, sometimes shocking phrases. “It was the best experience of my life”, said a twenty-one year old who was tossed around as a youngster and landed in Iraq only to come home blind and without a leg.
No one has the right to say these soldiers are not heroes. But I also suspect that few people understand the contemporary hollowness of that word better that they do. To a soldier coming home from war, the word “hero” looks surprisingly like a gesture of incomprehension, especially in our time when the word is on everyone’s lips. It measures the appalling gap between civilians and soldiers, the inexplicable difference between peace and war.
Text by: Verlyn Klinkenbor