Welcome Home – A Soldier’s Homecoming

23 Apr

I saw this today and I immediately thought of all my friends who have served. While most seem to have fared pretty well it’s sometimes very easy to forget what they have been through. Some saw worse than others, some had to do worse than others, some hide it better than others, but everyone who has served comes home with something. Memories, keepsakes, friends, brothers… and sometimes PTSD.

The story below is about a photo essay. It was put together by Craig Walker and was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography. It’s a stark reminder of what some members of the armed forces come home with, and I think everyone should read this article and definitely look through the 50 pictures that make up the award winning essay.

I often feel that I should have served in the military… at least once a week it crosses my mind. I think back to my grandpa, a sergeant in WWII who saw action in Italy and Germany, or two uncles, one who was a RIO in F-4 Phantoms or the other who was a Green Beret in Vietnam. I think about friends (Marines, Army, Navy, etc) that have served recently. I feel that I somehow missed out on a huge opportunity not only to see the world but to make a difference and really find out what I am made of. I’ve even told my wife that I won’t be dropping my current life and leaving her to chase a strange dream, but if it ever came to it and I had to go serve my country I would step up and volunteer for a combat medic MOS… but then I read stories like Scott’s and it makes me wonder. I don’t wonder if I could do the job, but I wonder if I could handle the aftermath. I hope everyone coming back stateside gets everything they need to really feel at home again, and I hope everyone else does anything and everything they can to facilitate that.

Gallery –>  Welcome Home, The Story of Scott Ostrom 


Posted at 07:55 AM ET, 04/19/2012 TheWashingtonPost

Pulitzer Prize winning subject Scott Ostrom reflects on the pain that led to prize

By May-Ying Lam

The recruitment ad that started it all is still on YouTube if you just search for “marine lava monster.” In the commercial, a man strides out of a white beam of light in a post-apocalyptic landscape. The man dives through the blades of a turbine to attain a sword (as a fireball shoots to the sky). Then, while balancing on a tightrope of blue light, he slashes a lava monster, and the inferno of its demise sweeps up the man turning him into a Marine.

Rewatching the video that persuaded him to enlist in the Marine Corps, Scott Ostrom has a long laugh at his apartment in Boulder, Colo. “…And then he puts on his dress blues and looks so good…I want that,” he said over the phone.

Ostrom cups his hand over his mouth as he tries to calm a panic attack at his apartment in Boulder, Colo. (HANDOUT – REUTERS) Ostrom, 27, an Iraq War veteran with PTSD, found his experiences to be far different from the recruitment spot. The painful long road after his deployment was documented by Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker and the subsequent photo essay won the Pulitzer Prize for feature photography on April 16.

Ten days after joining boot camp, on May 20, 2003, Ostrom’s drill instructor came into the barracks. “I hope you didn’t plan on getting a free ride to college ‘cause we’re going to war with Iraq,” Ostrom remembered him saying. “I didn’t even know where Iraq was on a map.”

Walker’s project, titled “Welcome Home,” chronicles Ostrom’s return home from Iraq — and the resulting nightmares, hypervigilance and rage. It required full commitment by both Walker and Ostrom. “I told him he’d have to let me be there for everything, good days and bad,” Walker said.

The poetic photos expose the viewer to a tumultuous range of emotions. In one frame, light outlines the bright thread of a suicide attempt that holds together two halves of a skull tattoo. There are also heartbreaking emotional moments, including one where Ostrom weeps after having his apartment application rejected because of an assault charge.

Brian Scott Ostrom looks over his military service records and weeps after being told his apartment application had been turned down. (HANDOUT – REUTERS) One of the most powerful visual metaphors is a frame where Ostrom faces into a blinding block of light. Here, he waits for his girlfriend to pick up her belongings after a breakup. Ostrom seems to be not only looking into his internal paranoia, but also viewing a hostile outside world from a dim room.

Some of the most astounding features of Walker’s photography are the depth and sheer amount of time he dedicates to his subjects. Walker’s work does not offer fleeting glimpses into his subjects’ lives.

Walker’s first Pulitzer in 2010 was awarded in the same category, feature photography, recognizing Walker’s series on Ian Fisher, who enlisted as a baby-faced 18-year-old. Walker stayed with Fisher for two years through graduation, enlistment, basic training, first assignment, breakup, breakup, Iraq, marriage and frequent returns home.

Denver Post photographer Craig F. Walker hugs his son, Quinn, while telling his mother he won a Pulitzer Prize. (Aaron Ontiveroz – AP) In a video of Walker receiving the news of the Pulitzer Prize in the Denver Post newsroom, someone informs Walker’s new baby, “Your daddy just won a Pulitzer!”

Walker’s boss had sneaked Ostrom into the newsroom so he could be present for the announcement. After congratulations all around, the video cuts to Ostrom. “This story has definitely saved at least one guy’s life so far,” he says.

Ostrom said that he just got word the day before that the Department of Veterans Affairs finally officially recognized his PTSD. He hopes that the compensation will help him resume a semblance of normal life. Furthermore, he hopes to enroll at the University of Colorado.

Craig F. Walker hugs former Marine Scott Ostrom in the Denver Post newsroom. (Joe Amon – AP)

View the other 2012 Pulitzer Prize winners here.

By May-Ying Lam  |  07:55 AM ET, 04/19/2012

One Response to “Welcome Home – A Soldier’s Homecoming”

  1. beechcreekproject April 24, 2012 at 12:18 pm #

    I joined the Navy straight out of high shcool in 1983 and served for 10 years. I’m now nearing 50 and still the best friends of my life are from that 10 year stretch. I’ve never found anyone that I connected with as I did with those guys during that time. Stories like this really hit home for me and I try not to dwell on how poorly our young men and women of the military are treated after giving their all for their country. Thanks for the post. It brings back a a lot of memories.

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