View Full Version : A different image of war

01-28-08, 08:24 AM
A different image of war
Guardsman's photos positive
By Adam Leech
January 28, 2008 6:00 AM

ELIOT, Maine — The images of war in Iraq that are ingrained in the memory of Pfc. Jonathan Snodgrass are not the same you see on TV. It's not the exchange of gunshots from insurgents in the hot spot of Ar Ramadi, nor is it the roadside bomb that went off while he was in the turret of a humvee, injuring him permanently.

The images he sees are the shots of a sunrise over the desert and mornings along the Euphrates River, or a fellow soldier riding a donkey through a village and his fellow Guardsmen rebuilding schools.

It's a glimpse of the war from a soldier's camera lens rather than his rifle scope.

"It's a side of the tour people don't get to see or hear about, because all over the news you only hear about people wanting to bring us home," said Snodgrass, 32. "They don't understand once we're there, we do have a job to do and we have to complete the mission."

The missions of Snodgrass, a Winnacunnet High School graduate, and the 20 other members of the New Hampshire Army National Guard who were stationed in Ar Ramadi, the capital of the Al Anbar province, from July 2005 to June 2006 were often dangerous. Teaming with the second Marine Division there, they patrolled the major supply route in and out of the city — searching and disarming roadside bombs and tracking insurgent activity.

"Just from that group from New Hampshire, five of the 20 came home with Purple Hearts," Snodgrass said. "It was such a small group to put in a place where there was something going on every day. We helped Marines with their missions — we kicked in doors, held raids, hunted down insurgent leaders. We were really busy."

Snodgrass was one of the five awarded the Purple Heart after the vehicle he was in was struck by a roadside bomb in March 2006, knocking him down from his gunner's position atop the vehicle. He suffered traumatic brain injury, for which he continues to be treated.

Though often dangerous, being in the turret eight hours a day gave Snodgrass the opportunity to record the experience for his own album and his fellow Guardsmen. He'd bring his Fuji digital with him on most missions and religiously download them to his laptop. He took approximately 1,000 photographs.

"I wanted to take pictures and have people look at them because they really don't know what we do when we go over there," he said. "Outside the hostile activities, with just the villages that surrounded our base, we gave them power generators, fixed the ones they had, we rebuilt schools, we gave school supplies, we gave medical care.

"... (People) only see what's going on from what they see in TV or in the papers ... and (the media) don't care about positive things going on."

Going through the pictures a year and a half after he returned home brings back memories of the war. Unlike the typical civilian's, the images he holds are not entirely negative. Along with the pride of many executed missions, he will always carry with him a vision of kindness, humor and camaraderie.

"When I look at them, it brings everything back — the emotions I had that day," he said. "It's not a depressing thing, but it definitely changes my mood and brings me back to that moment — what I'm feeling and what I'm seeing when I took the picture."