Jason is disabled American Veteran who served our country for 20 years. While in the military, Jason deployed into battle 7 times. He served as a warrant officer, is now retired as a disabled veteran and has so much to be proud of.
However, there is a darker shade to Jason’s eyes now. The once very bright eyes that shown through are a tad bit dimmer. There are times that I have looked at Jason after knowing some of what this man has been through and wondered, how does he stay sain. I believe Jason wonders that sometimes too. Maybe it’s the many pills that he is forced to take from being hit with an IED while at war. Maybe it’s the help he receives from his dog Lola when he wakes from night terrors. Maybe it’s the people he surrounds himself with that call him friend.
I’m certain that it’s his two daughters, that keep him going and striving every day to be the man he is.
I think that we civilians tend to shy away from asking questions to our vets when they come home from war. We assume they don’t want to talk about it. We assume that it's best to just be quiet and continue living life.
We civilians continue to live life, while our soldiers do not know how to re-conform to the normalcy after all they have witnessed.
I asked the questions that no one wanted to ask because I too needed to know the truth. I asked because I wanted to understand Jason better. I asked because I could see the pain and dark in his eyes. This is just part of Jason’s story, A very small part, told through many different images. I am hoping that this project helps bridge the gap, even just a little, to understanding our vets, our wounded, our warriors. I hope that more will reach out.
I asked Jason to come just as he was, I asked him to just be honest.
Our so called interview started with me asking Jason what he feared. A question that many of us need to ask our self.
Jason: My girls..... not being able to control everything around them, not being there to always protect them.
Me: How many times did you go to war?
Jason: 7 times
Me: Did you kill anyone?
Jason: Yes lots of people.
Me: Do you remember the first person you killed?
He was a fifteen year old kid.
Me: A kid?
Jason: Yes, but he wasn’t a kid, not like you and I know. This kid was ready to kill us. They are trained with guns.
Me: What did it do to you?
Jason: The first one messed me up a bit.
Jason: After a while, it just becomes the job.
I showed Jason the back of my camera after I took the Above photo.
Jason: You know what, that is how I feel most the time. That's exactly how I feel.
Me: Did you know a lot of people that died?
After a very long silence, Jason begins to sit tall and roll his shoulders.
Me: Are you okay?
Jason: Yes my neck just gets really stiff.
Me: You have a neck injury right, was that from war?
Jason: Yeah, I was in a tank and was the gunner, and an RPG hit the back and broke the gunners hatch which smashed me in the head.
Me: Oh my, So did you pass out?
Jason: Yeah for like a minute, but then I came to.
Me: And did you go to get help?
Jason: There is no getting help, you just have to keep going. I knew something was broken, but I had men that I was in charge of and had to keep going.
Me: So you kept fighting with an injury?
Me: Well, get comfortable, move around if you need to
Jason removed his sweater and I noticed he had a gun tucked away in his pants. He reached over to remove it and put it down.
Me: No go ahead and keep it, that's you.
Jason: Yeah, I do take Roscoe everywhere I go.
Me: Okay Jason before you get dressed, I'll take one of those famous looking MMA Fighters pictures that look badass.
Jason actually threw himself into a local MMA club in Colorado Springs to sort out some of his demons. He said he loved getting involved in it, it was a way to fight without getting in trouble.
Me: Jason, when is the last time that you have had your portrait taken?
Jason: Well, at the ranch, when you took pictures of me petting the horses.
Me: No Jason, like a real portrait, one that you could pass on to your girls, one that they can always look at and see their dad?
Jason: Man, I guess when Chey (his youngest daughter) was like 5.
Me: Okay well give me one for them. Smile or laugh for me. Show me what your girls do for you.
Jason’s story is all but one of the hundreds and thousands of stories out there. Do all of our soldiers want to talk about it? I’m sure they don’t. I'm sure that it is to painful.
I’m sure some wish they could take away the vivid visions, the sounds, even the smells from their minds and erase them.
I’m sure that some will try their damndest to shut it out.
I know some have tried to forget with every addictive opioid swallowed.
Moreso, Many have taken it to the grave with them, the moment they took their own life.
We should not assume however, that all want to remain quiet and hold that burden in. We cannot pretend that nothing has happened, while expecting them to get back into being regular citizens and not trained killers? These men and women have to figure out how to live with these new uninvited demons. Demons that seem to wake them in the night. Demons that seem to chase them everywhere they go. The relentless ones I call them. We can’t always just look the other way and be quiet. Sometimes they DO want to talk about it, they just need an opening.
I want to give them the stage.
I am a storyteller. That is what I was called to do, to tell eachones story, even the hard ones.
If you know of any Men or women that want or need to tell their story and they just may not know how, please reach out to us.