In March 1968, as a 21 year-old Air Force sergeant, I arrived at Bien Hoa Air Base in Viet Nam and served a year tour directing air strikes with a Forward Air Control  (FAC) team.  I spent seven months living in a US Army base camp, and five months in a Vietnamese coastal  village in the Mekong Delta.  My photographs were for memories and to record the events taking place around me.  Not realizing it at the time, the nearly 400 slides I made in Viet Nam were the genesis of this life-long project...understanding the effects of war on soldiers and others.  Today our soldiers have a high rate of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, Military Sexual Trauma, and suicide.  My double question: what is the cause of these invisible wounds, and how can soldiers, veterans, our families and nation create a healthy life after the emotional trauma of war?  

    Starting in 1971, I have been sharing my photography of war and conflict through slide presentations with students and educators throughout the U. S., Viet Nam, South Korea, Australia, and Canada.  The result has been a life dedicated (perhaps obsessively) explaining how, in my case, an illegal war caused so much confusion and pain to my generation and others.   Sadly, we’re doing it again.

    In the 1980s, I taught middle and high school earth science and biology, and started photographing veteran parades and memorials in the US, Viet Nam, South Korea, and Australia (our two major allies). Because of the nomadic lifestyle,  I made a conscious decision to close the project on 30 April 2005 in Viet Nam.   I called this segment of work, “Wounds that Bind: Four Countries after the American War in Viet Nam.”  I wanted to create a book, but life had other plans.

    My initial goal has always been to understand how war, any war, effects the emotions of soldiers, like it did in Viet Nam.  Because today’s American soldiers have a high rate of suicide, a significant rise of Military Sexual Trauma (American soldiers assaulting American soldiers), and PTSD, I wanted to understand the how and why. The best way I knew how to compare the current situation of soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan with my 1968-69 tour in Viet Nam was to “embed,”  that is, live with the troops where they were fighting. 

    In November 2008, I embedded as a free-lance photographer in Baghdad, Iraq, at COP 803 with Alpha Company, 1/22 Inf., 4th Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division.  In December 2009 I embedded in Afghanistan, starting at Bagram Air Field, north of Kabul, with a Provincial Reconstruction team at Forward Observing Base Lion in the Panjshir Valley, and COP Pertle-King with Charlie Troop, 1/63 Cavalry, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division in northeast Afghanistan, Kunar Province.   Similar to the style of photographs I made more than 40 years earlier in Viet Nam, my photographs continue to show the war machinery, downtime for the soldiers, and the lives and culture of the local people. 

    The changes in technology and restricted travel conditions have forced me to use digital cameras (computers that look like cameras) in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Ironically, I have pristine 50 year-old negatives next to 10 year-old photo CDs that are almost impossible to read due to outdated software or disintegrating materials.  Obviously digital photography can certainly help, but planned obsolescence creates drawbacks as well.