14 October 2010
Where War Lives: A Photographic Journal of Vietnam
I've been reading Where War Lives: A Photographic Journal of Vietnam by Dick Durrance. It is a collection of his photographs during his military service accompanied by an introduction by Ron Kovic of Born on the 4th of July fame.
The Vietnam war is, in many ways, the military history I grew up on. Stories from Vietnam were told by relatives who served, passed down in family legend. Its pictures, patches, and maps covered the walls of the VFW where we had so many family gatherings.
Yet its jungles and aging warriors seem far removed after so many years of the wars that have become my own.
Through Durrance's photographic journey of his service, I am reminded once again of the commonalities of war and of the men and women who fight them.
A war is a war is a war. A warrior is a warrior is a warrior.
The future photojournalist captures the humanity of his compatriots. In the black and white photographs of training I can see Bestie and a hundred friends reflected in the bearing and attitude of young men now thirty-plus years their senior.
Take the trees out of his helo shots and the door gunner could be the one that sits in my hard drive, flying over an entirely different battlefield.
Flipping through the photographs, I am drawn to their eyes. Eyes that reflect too many hours without a decent sleep. Young men burdened with the weight too much gear and too many memories. Eyes with a certain hardness and sureness of attitude.
I have seen these eyes before. I will see them again soon.
I find it interesting that Dick Durrance waited twenty years after he left Vietnam to publish this book. I wonder what we will learn about our wars and from our warriors in twenty years.
"Nothing can repair the damage caused by war, but returning to the memories and pictures has connected me to those experiences, which, in spite of my efforts to ignore them, have done so much to shape the rest of my life (143)." ~Dick Durrance