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thedrifter
08-21-03, 09:33 AM
Iraq war images haunting
August 21,2003
MATT DEES
DAILY NEWS STAFF

The small girl stood in the Iraqi desert, her dirt-covered hands clutching a new, white teddy bear. Big brown eyes - empty and scared - stared back at the camera. It's a haunting image, said Lt. Col. Wes Weston, but an important one.

"People are still saying, 'Are you sure we should be there?'" said Weston, who served in Iraq as the commanding officer of MSSG-24.

"They've gotta see this. They've gotta see these little guys living in rags. I hope we can continue to press on to help these people."

The photo was part of a collection of images captured by Marines serving in Iraq.

Those attending the gallery Wednesday night at the Marine Corps Exchange on Camp Lejeune said the photos offered a compelling glimpse at the troops' experiences in battle and in their uneasy leisure.

A battle-weary Marine with ammunition slung around his neck stared at the ground at sunset.

"His face says it all," said Carl Mencer, retail director at the Exchange.

One grinning warrior held a portrait of Saddam Hussein, pointing his pistol at the deposed dictator's head.

Many photos conveyed the dark humor of the battlefield, including a Marine holding a cardboard sign reading "shouda joined the Air Force."

Kari Lewis, whose husband, Ryan, served with the 2nd Medical Battalion, said keeping a sense of humor, dark or not, was essential for her husband and all troops.

"Sometimes things seemed to be spiraling down so fast, you had to do something to bring yourself back up," she said.

Jay Sollis, base assistant chief of staff for Marine Corps Community Services, said recording the realities of war is and always has been vital.

From Matthew Brady's disturbing, macabre Civil War photos to the triumphant flag-raising at Iwo Jima frozen in time by Joe Rosenthal, the gallery carries on a vital tradition, Sollis said.

"Tonight, we celebrate not only the service and sacrifices of our troops who have defended their country so honorably and well, but also the artists who have captured these images for us," he told guests gathered for the gallery opening.

Three judges picked 10 finalists and three top winners out of the photos.

The finalists will be published in The Daily News in a special section Aug. 31, and the winners will be announced Sept. 4, the same day as the welcome home celebration.

The idea for the gallery originated at the Exchange.

Employees of the photo processing store told Felice Crofoot, the Exchange's retail advertiser, they were getting amazing prints from returning troops.

"They told me there are some wonderful photos in there," Crofoot said. "It would be nice if everyone could see them."

Crofoot said she hopes the gallery can embark on a tour of malls and other bases.

Weston praised the entire collection.

"It's amazing," he said. "It very much captures everything we did and everything we saw."

The gallery will remain at the Exchange until Sept. 7.


Contact Matt Dees at mdees@jdnews.com or at 353-1171, Ext. 239.

http://www.jacksonvilledailynews.com/Photo/082103_iraq.jpg



http://www.jdnews.com/Photo/082103_iraq2.jpg

John Althouse/Daily News
War in Iraq: Lance Cpl. Lemuel Heida looks over photo entires in the Marine Corps. Exchange lobby.


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Sempers,

Roger
:marine: