From a distance, you can smell the bodies before you even saw them. Truth is, when you're in a war zone, you stop seeing altogether. Other senses kick in before vision.
It was January 2005, on a desolate stretch of road about sixty miles north of Kandahar. They were lying in a row, partially hidden in a field of golden grass. From inside our Humvee, at first, I thought it was a family resting. Their bodies were still, but when the wind howled, their heads would move gently--left to right. They were all dead, of course. Their eyes were shut. Exposed to the sun, their skin had wrinkled, shrunken and stretched over rotting flesh.
No one said a thing. We stood there in silence as vultures and crows flew above us.
I hovered above the bodies. Looked at one through my lens and decided to get closer while everyone else kept their distance. The reporter I was working with started crying. Weird, I thought--at how she took it so personal. I didn't realize that I was the weird one for not doing so. Some how, war taints your soul.
Pulling out my cheap insta-matic camera I'd brought with me for my scrapbook, I took detailed shots of their body, hands, and legs. Click, Click.
To this day I've never really understood why I did that. The pictures remain undeveloped--but every time I see that roll of film, I'm haunted by my actions. I see it clearly in my mind--perfectly etched in vivid colour. I guess, for me, it's my harsh reminder to the realities of war...
"The tragedy of war is that it uses man's best to do man's worst." -Stanley Baldwin
On this Remembrance/Veterans day, lest we forget those who paid the price--those behind the guns who faught for our liberty, and those who are innocent caught in between--for they too, haved died for our freedom.