2012 - Ongoing
This work explores the social impact of war on military families, who have supported America’s war efforts, unseen. In 2013, after becoming a military spouse, I moved from Los Angeles to Fort Irwin, CA, the National Training Center for US Army troops, where they practice simulated warfare right before they deploy. It was the height of the War in Afghanistan and the location was remote. I felt isolated and disconnected from this military existence and so I began taking pictures to make sense of this new life and engage with my community.
Less than 1% of the general population serves in the military and 60% of active duty service members have families. This shrinking demographic is becoming more family oriented and it is the family members who shoulder the burden of war. This community is always in a state of preparation for war, at war, or dealing with the aftermath of war. Because the civilian population is largely unaware of US military operations abroad, the divide between the civilian and military communities continues to grow, further alienating a community already under intense stress. Military families typically move every 2-3 years. Because of the (historically) small size of the force, the “operations tempo” is strenuous. Fewer soldiers must cover more ground, fulfill more duties, and in most cases, that means more family separations.
The military family experience is often reduced to the moment when a service member returns home. The embrace. The tearful reunion. These images do not capture the long preparation for deployments, training exercises that can be fatal, spouses (95% women) who raise children alone, often cut-off from critical support systems. These stressors are compounded by one-sided media representations of the military family experience, giving civilians distorted answers to the questions: “What is the cost of war?” and “What does it mean to be at war?” Through this work, I hope to bridge the civil-military divide through storytelling from within the community.