War changes you. If the number of veterans suffering from PTSD isn’t enough to convince you of this, the photographs by the journalist, photographer and filmmaker Lalange Snow might be.
An astonishing number of veterans suffer traumatic brain injuries and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
In her “We Are Not Dead” series, photojournalist Lalage Snow shows the shocking transformation soldiers go through before, during, and after tours of duty in Afghanistan.
The physical changes are astonishing. War is cruel to the men and women who fight in them, there’s no doubt about it.
Soldiers often have to detach themselves emotionally, leading to higher rates of depression, alcoholism, and suicide.
Snow’s goal was to was to make the experience of war personal, to make the viewer understand it through the faces of those who were fighting.
She tried not to pass any judgement or over the rights and wrongs of war… this is just soldiers, up close and personal.
Private Becky Hitchcock, 19
“My city friends think I am brave but I don’t see it like that at all. It looks so bad on the news but it’s alright really.”
“I was scared just before leaving the U.K. — I didn’t know what to expect. I haven’t been scared here but I know there will be times when I will be.”
“A day after that IED it came over the radio that the Afghan soldier was in intensive care but stable. That was the best feeling ever.”
“A few months later I treated a little boy with burns to his whole body. He was dead tiny, a lovely looking lad.”
“We made him stable – stable enough to get to Bastian. But two days later his body went into shock and he died.”
“They had to return the body for us to hand back to the family. Carrying him dead having carried him alive two days previous…it was a weird feeling.”
Private Jo Yavala, 28
“I am going to miss my family. I have been to Iraq before but not Afghanistan.”
“I don’t know what to expect but am looking forward to getting out there now.”
“In the morning when I wake up and in the evening before bed. but out there I was just praying all the time, thinking of my family at home.”
“Sometimes I’d pray during a patrol itself. I was scared.”
Especially when in contact, you don’t know what will happen. I was expecting the worst.”
“Right now I feel a little bit angry, sometimes my temperature rises very quickly especially if I stay too long inside.”
Private Sean Patterson, 19
“I am going to say good bye to my family early as I have goodbyes. I am going to miss them. I’m not scared though. I can’t wait!
I joined the army when I was 15 — it is all I wanted to do and I can’t wait to get there.”
“People think you can just sail through life but it is not as easy as that. You could get hit by a bus and that would be that.”
“You never know what is going to happen – especially out there.”
“You could go out on patrol and that could be you, finished. I reckon we should leave them to do their own thing.”
“We have lost too many. You see guys coming back missing 3 limbs.”
“They are not going to be able to get a job on city street are they?”
“So I don’t really see the point. It’s not as if we are going to gain anything in Afghanistan, are we?”
“It’s their own problem. Deal with it.”
Private Dylan Hughes, 26
“I am not afraid of going to Afghanistan. It’s my job at the end of the day.”
“But I am afraid of f–king up and someone else dying.”
“To be honest I felt quite sorry for the wee lassies as the women get treated like s–t out there.”
“They’ve got that to look forward to…I think we are just fighting a losing battle to be honest with you.”
“But it’s not my place to say. I don’t know about the politics side of it.”
Second Lieutenant Adam Petzsch, 25
“I suppose I am a bit apprehensive but I want to see what it is really like. It is what I joined the army for but I don’t know what to expect.”
“We took over a new compound and if we ventured any more than 200-300 meters we got shot at.”
“At the start of the tour you could patrol kilometers away and no one would touch you.
“But I think yes, in parts we are making a difference.”
Private Chris MacGregor, 24
“Obviously I’ll miss family but other than that I am going to miss my dogs more than anything. They are my de-stressers and keep me sane.”
“I think I’ll miss TV too though. I try not to think about the worst case scenario.”
“Most people get used to being away from home but I find it hard. It’s your fear that keeps you alive here.”
“But I believe if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen and theres nothing you can do about it.”
“If the big man upstairs could do anything, there’d be no dead soldiers. They’d all be alive.”
“It still hurts when you hear about a soldier dying.”
“You think about what their families are going through. You ask what they died for and what we are achieving here.
“I am not sure any more. That Afghan soldier losing his legs just now… I don’t know….”
“My legs just gave up. I think it was the weight – 135 pounds or something.”
“I just had to accept, my body was telling me to give up as I had pushed it. I was telling it to go, it was telling me to stop.”
“When squaddies come back they still have a lot of adrenaline and anger in them.”
“I had to have anger management after Iraq. If I get like that now, I just go for a walk with the dogs.”
“It is the best way to deal with it, instead of being all tense and ready to snap at folk.”
“The first thing I did when I came back, apart from kissing and cuddling the misses and my bairn, was go for a massive walk with the dogs.”
“I walked for miles and miles not caring where I stepped.”
Private Ben Frater, 21
“The day he got shot, that’s the one thing I’ll never forget. Warton couldn’t find any cover and was shot in the leg.”
“It was just a nightmare trying to extract him and get the chopper in. It was horrible.”
“And now we are home? I find that I’m getting bored easily after 10 minutes. I feel anxious all the time that I should be doing something.”
Private Steven Anderson, 31
“We try to go there to win their hearts and change their minds but those people are living until 45 and dying, as there’s so much poverty and not the medicines to treat them.
“They put different value on life. A child got killed, it was nothing to do with the Army, it was just ill.
They brought the body to an army camp, having shot it, saying that it got caught in a firefight and demanding money.”
“How can you change the mind of someone like that?”
Private Matthew Hodgson, 18
“You try and explain what it was like where you were but people have not got a clue.”
“The food – not getting a proper meal or sleep. And you are just drained after a patrol. Absolutely drained.”
“And it was pretty scary at times. When you are in contact at first its just get down. ”
“Afterwards it hits you… I was getting shot at, that was close”
Lance Corporal Sean Tennant, 29
Corporal Steven Gibson, 29
Second Lieutenant Struan Cunningham, 24
Private Fraiser Pairman, 21
Lance Corporal Martyn Rankin, 23
Lance Corporal David McLean, 27
Sergeant Alexander McBroom, 24
Credits: Higher Perspectives