Purple Hearts—Back from Iraq

Purple Hearts—Back From Iraq, by Nina Berman (self-published, 2004). Available from Trolley, 257 Church St., New York, NY 10013.

Want to see the real results of the Iraq war? Look at Purple Hearts—Back From Iraq—a book of photographs and interviews of soldiers who lost limbs for our country. Really, not for our country but for George Bush’s plan of getting rid of Saddam Hussein.

The pictures are haunting and mysteriously beautiful. The interviews range from pride in serving one’s country to desolation at losing a leg. Purple Hearts refers to the medal these men and women received. (Yes, there is a woman interviewed, Lt. Jordan Johnson, a 23-year-old from San Antonio, Texas. She was in charge of a platoon protecting the general of the 1st Armored Division. She was en route from Baghdad International Airport on July 20, 2003, when her Humvee flipped and crashed, smashing her leg and tailbone, and putting into a coma. Another soldier died in the crash. “I’m not a hero; I’m a survivor,” she says.)

Many of the wounded fought like Spec. Frederick Allen Jr., a machine gunner with the 82nd Airborne. “I thought going to war was jumping out of planes,” he said. He was wounded when a RPG ripped through his left leg and shattered his right leg during a firefight in Fallujah on Oct. 31, 2003. “The recruiters come to school once a year,” he recalled. “They had a list of people. Every year, they just called random people, and once they get one person, then they ask their friends to come. That’s how they get people to sign up. He asked me if I wanted to, and I said sure.”

The pictures show the soldiers in their homes surrounded by personal effects or at therapy, exercising and learning to use their prosthetics. The soldiers in this book represent a small number of the 5,394 American servicemen and women wounded in action during the first 15 months of the American invasion and occupation of Iraq. 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. Iraqi casualties are not counted at all.

This book should be placed on the desk of every American senator and congressman. Every military recruiter should have a copy and should be forced to show it to the young men and women they recruit.

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