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The Things We Carry

612: Nature of Photography

     I was fortunate enough to serve my country as photojournalist in the United States Army for nearly four and half years. With one tour to Iraq during Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation New Dawn, I made Forward Observation Base Marez in Mosul my home.   I have documented at least 13 memorial services and several ramp ceremonies of Soldiers lost to the war and have been responsible for taking the last image of the Soldier alive in several instances. I believe any Soldier whether they deployed or not will tell you that there are things they carry with them and things they leave behind while under years of extreme duress from training and combat. We all cope in different ways… some use drugs and alcohol, some religion, and unfortunately some with suicide. Suicide within the Armed Forces is an epidemic as twenty-two Soldiers take their own life every single day. I attribute overcoming the acute stress from my faith, my family and my art. I literally self-medicated by painting in my five by ten foot connex box in Iraq to deal with the daily stress, and this body of work is very raw for me as I wanted to be truly honest with it. I am hoping that this body of work will strike a nerve by exposing duality of PTSD and create an active conversation so if you cross paths with a veteran you may have empathy for where their boots have traversed. 


By Gregory Gieske


Who dares venture into Dark?

No man asks to go.

To unfamiliar lands I embark,

As entangled thoughts begin to flow.


To a place of foreign tongue,

It takes courage to see the light.

Left in shadow wife and young,

My rifle I take to fight.


Lying in my rack,

She never leaves my site.

She has my back,

Cold and black as night.


I muster all my strength,

To arise before the dawn.

Within arms length,

We both rise to Soldier on.


The mission staged at O’Dark thirty,

We all gather round the brief.

Counting the cost of getting dirty,

My heart begins to sink with grief.


Man and machine we work together,

Large steal cages of armor on wheels carry.

Knights of integrity, valor and honor;

As if time stands still my mind begins to tarry.


Of thoughts back home I reminisce,

My wife, my sons they are alone.

It is precious time with them I miss,

As I dream of my next ticket home.


Again we ride into the lonely Dark,

Our mission always remains the same.

The doldrums—our existence mark,

Until the gunfire, smoke, and flame.

Project: Iron Horse

603: Language of Photography

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