Professional photographer David Jay knows a picture is worth a thousand words.
To comprehend the news he would hear about the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, Jay visited Walter Reed Hospital to meet with wounded veterans. The visit had such a profound effect on him that he spent 3 years photographing wounded servicemen and women capturing an unadulterated look at their traumatic wounds for his series “Unknown Soldier.”
“We hear about ‘this number of men were killed’ and ‘this many were injured,'” Jay said in a recent interview with NPR. “And we think of them — maybe they got shot — or we don’t really picture what these injured men look like.”
The images are so visually powerful they have been acquired by the Library of Congress to be used as part its Iraq and Afghanistan wars visual documentation.
“You can imagine how many times each of these men and women have heard a parent tell their child, ‘Don’t look. Don’t stare at him. That’s rude.’ I take these pictures so that we can look; we can see what we’re not supposed to see. And we need to see them because we created them.”
Jay gave WATM permission to use some of his photos below, but you can see his full gallery here.
Army Staff Sgt. Robert Henline. Bobby’s transport was incinerated by a roadside bomb in Iraq. He was the lone survivor.
Army Spc. Jerral Hancock. Jerral was driving a tank in Iraq. A roadside bomb pierced the armor, breaching the interior. It is believed that Jerral was trapped under the wreckage for half an hour.
Robert was hit by incoming artillery, sustaining burns over 60% of his body
Maj. Matt Smith, US Army. On June 8, 2013 in Paktika Province, Afghanistan, Matt was shot along with five others by a member of the Afghan National Army. The bullet severed his femoral artery, resulting in the amputation of his leg.
Marine Cpl. Michael Fox. On November 15, 2011 Michael was on foot patrol in the Helmand Province of Afghanistan when he was injured by an improvised explosive device.
1st Lt. Nicholas John Vogt, U.S. Army. On November 12, 2011, he was severely injured by an IED while on a foot-patrol in Panjwaii, Afghanistan.
“The only thing that I want to pass on is this: Losing limbs is like losing a good friend,” Vogt said. “We wish we could still be with them, but it wasn’t ‘in the cards’. Then we get up, remember the good times, and thank God for whatever we have left.”
Cpl. Christian Brown, USMC
On Dec. 13, 2011, Christian was leading his squad on foot patrol in Helmand Province, Afghanistan when he stepped on an improvised explosive device. Both of his legs were blown off- one above the knee, the other below the hip. Just four days prior, under heavy enemy fire, Christian had carried a mortally wounded Marine almost 1,000 feet to a hovering helicopter — an act of bravery for which he was awarded the Silver Star.
Spc. Marissa Strock. She was injured when her vehicle was struck by an IED buried in the road. She was 20 years old.
Staff Sgt. Shilo Harris. Shilo was severely burned on February 19th, 2007 by a roadside bomb estimated at 700 lbs. He lost three men out of a crew of five. Only Shilo and his driver survived the blast.
To view the entire Unknown Soldier collection by David Jay, visit his website here.