By Dan Lamothe
August 31, 2016
At the outset of the project, Stanton said on Facebook he expected that the project would show conflicting feelings: “patriotism, disillusionment, pride, regret, gratitude, and grief.”
Zachary Iscol appears in the picture in a light-blue shirt and tousled hair, a 5 o’clock shadow on his face. In accompanying text, he mourns the loss of his friend “Ronnie Winchester,” a first lieutenant with the Marine Corps who died in Iraq in 2004, just a few years after graduating from the Naval Academy.
“He was the nicest guy you can imagine,” Iscol said. “My 22nd birthday was during our officer training course. None of us had slept. We were all starving. We were only getting one ration per day. But Ronnie wanted to give me a memorable birthday. So he put a candle in his brownie and gave it to me. That’s how nice of a guy he was. Ronnie ended up getting killed in Iraq. And if a guy like Ronnie got killed, you can’t help but wonder why you deserve to be alive.”
It’s one of many sentiments that have been shared recently by veterans on Humans of New York, the popular social-media group that was created to document the lives of New Yorkers and now has nearly 18 million followers on Facebook and 5.8 million more on Instagram. The series has seen numerous veterans and military family members share their observations of the world with photographer Brandon Stanton.
At the outset of the project, Stanton said on Facebook he expected that the project would show conflicting feelings: “patriotism, disillusionment, pride, regret, gratitude, and grief.” Many of the veterans involved have post-traumatic stress, Stanton said, but the hardships they shared in interviews with Humans of New York are too nuanced for that diagnosis to capture everything involved.
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