The Homecoming Project - PhMuseum

The Homecoming Project

Erin Trieb

2010 - 2012

The Homecoming Project

Today, America’s young recruits enlisting in the US military range on average from 18 to 25 years of age. They come from various backgrounds all over the United States, but most are from demographics of low socioeconomic status. Some lack a complete high school education; others have difficult situations at home, a history of drug abuse and addiction, and, or, records of petty crime. Many join with eager hopes of going to college on the GI Bill, doing something note-worthy for their country, or leaving their small towns behind to see the world.

From 2009 – 2011 I documented the US military’s 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan. Since 2010 I have continued photographing the lives of service members after they return home from deployment, which includes a six month-span in 2010 where I lived at Fort Drum’s 10th Mountain US military base to photograph infantry service members’ to-day-day lives. My photographs illustrate service members at war, coming home from war, and returning back to war again – a decade long cycle experienced by millions of American families.

The US military, following their return home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, is suffering from repercussions as devastating and traumatic as war itself. Service members returning home wage a different type of war – one of invisible wounds and inner-conflict, which can go undetected for years. 25% of returning service members are diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, while 30% are diagnosed with Traumatic Brain Injury. Symptoms of PTSD and TBI can include depression, anxiety, changes in personality, severe headaches, sleep disturbance, substance abuse, and violent behavior, while the most extreme cases result in suicide. In 2009, the rate of suicide among US military service members surpassed the number of those killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Today, one US veteran commits suicide every hour and 20 minutes – a rise from 18 a day in 2012 to 22 a day in 2013.

Below the surface of these rattling statistics, war also permanently changes the service members’ identity and perspective, creating a separation gap between them, their families, and members of the civilian community. The Homecoming Project documents the constant change throughout “The Hero’s Journey” – the trauma, loss and courage experienced by members of the US military and veterans after returning home from war. The Homecoming Project conveys the devastating affect the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are having on the 2.5 million members of the US military who have been deployed in the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, illuminates key issues affecting today’s veterans, and creates further awareness and understanding for veterans and their families.

1. Men’s Health, 2012 Dec. issue: The Military's Billion-Dollar Pill Problem, by Paul John Scott

2. BBC, 10/28/2013: PTSD 'most common in young soldiers' says new report

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  • SPC Austin Murphy shows a scar on his neck that he got from being stabbed by fellow soldier, Zachery Higgins, while on guard duty at the barracks in Fort Drum, NY. Higgins, 19, who had mixed and ingested multiple medications prescribed to him by the US military with alcohol, attacked Murphy in the barracks hallway at Fort Drum. Higgins claims he had blacked out and does not remember the incident; he was assigned a JAG officer to represent his case and was sentenced to 2 years of prison at Fort Levonworth in Kansas.

  • SPC Adam Ramsey, 23, lays on his bed, exhausted, after taking medications prescribed to him by the US military. Ramsey, who served 12 months in Afghanistan with the United States infantry, was diagnosed with PTSD and schitzo-effective disorder while in Afghanistan; he struggled with alcohol and substance abuse after returning home. Ramsey checked himself into the mental health hospital in Feb 2010 and is currently in recovery. Jan 2011.

  • Stefanie Strausser mourns the death of her late fiance, Staff Sergeant Cody Anderson (of the 1st Platoon, Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division) at their apartment in Watertown, NY, Jan 2010. The day after Anderson returned home from Afghanistan he became intoxicated and was arrested for assaulting Strausser outside of a bar. Shortly afterward, the Fort Drum mental health department diagnosed Anderson with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and bi-polar disorder, subscribing him several medications. On the morning of Jan. 14, 2010 Anderson was found dead in his apartment. Although the Watertown Daily Times claimed his death was an "unknown suicide," police later stated that Anderson died of acute pneumonia. Photographed in Anderson's apartment in Watertown, New York.

  • Soldiers and their loved ones get ready for deployment to Afghanistan, Ft Drum, NY

  • Friends and family shovel dirt over the ashes of US Soldier Specialist Dirk Terpstra, 26, (of the Headquarters Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division), who, after having served a 12-month tour in Afghanistan in 2009, committed suicide on Feb. 24, 2010, near his home in Michigan; photographed on March 8, 2010 at Ft. Custer National Cemetery, in Agusta, Michigan. The night of his death Terpstra became intoxicated and shot himself in the head in a family friend's front yard. Terpstra's family says that although previous to his deployment Terpstra experienced depression and had made attempts at suicide, his condition worsened after having served in Afghanistan.

  • Us infantry soldiers have snowball fight on, Fort Drum, New York. Jan 2010.

  • US Infantry soldier SPC Adam Ramsey, 22, relaxes with friend, Savannah Gordon, after consuming a mixture of prescription medicines and drugs at his home in Carson City, Nevada, Feb 2010. While serving a 12-month deployment in Afghanistan Ramsey was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). While in Nevada on leave, he experienced hallucinations, depression, and suicidal thoughts; he self-medicated mixing prescribed medications with alcohol, a common practice among soldiers with post-deployment disorders. Fearing that he would take his own life, Ramsey checked himself in to a mental health hospital after he returned from Nevada to Fort Drum. Jan 2010

  • Photographs of Stefanie Strausser who was assaulted by her fiance, Staff Sergeant Cody Anderson, 26, (of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 87th Infantry Regiment) the day after he returned home from a 12-month deployment in Afghanistan. The day after Anderson returned home from Afghanistan he became intoxicated and was arrested for assaulting Strausser outside of a bar. Shortly afterward, the Fort Drum mental health department diagnosed Anderson with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and bi-polar disorder, subscribing him several medications. On the morning of Jan. 14, 2010 Anderson was found dead in his apartment. Although the Watertown Daily Times claimed his death was an "unknown suicide," police later stated that Anderson died of acute pneumonia. Photographed in Anderson's apartment in Watertown, New York.

  • US soldier Specialist Adam Ramsey, 22, looks out of his bedroom window after experiencing flashbacks and hallucinations at his family's home in Carson City, Nevada. While serving a 12-month deployment in Afghanistan Ramsey was diagnosed with PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and schitzo-effective disorder. While in Nevada on leave, he experienced hallucinations, depression, and suicidal thoughts; he self-medicated mixing medications prescribed to him by the military with alcohol, a common practice among soldiers with post-deployment disorders. Fearing that he would take his own life, Ramsey checked himself in to a mental health hospital after he returned from Nevada to Fort Drum.

  • US infantry soldiers SPC Ryan Cooley, left, and SPC Adam Ramsey, right, (of the 3rd Platoon, Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division) smoke cigarettes in the infantry barracks, which houses unmarried soldiers, at Fort Drum, New York. Jan. 2010.

  • US Infantry soldiers of the 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division train in marksmanship to prepare for their next deployment to Afghanistan, in Fort Drum, NY, March, 2011.

  • Between the tree and the mailbox, US infantry soldier Specialist Dirk Terpstra, 26, (Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment) committed suicide in Kalamazoo, Michigan; photgraphed March, 8, 2010. After serving a 12- month deployment in Afghanistan in 2009, Terpstra committed suicide while on leave near his home in Kalamazoo on Feb. 24, 2010. The night of his death Terpstra visited a local bar with friends where he became intoxicated and shot himself in the head in a friend's front yard. Terpstra's family said that although before his deployment Terpstra experienced deep depression and had previously made suicidal attempts, they believe that his condition worsened after serving in Afghanistan.

  • US infantry soldier (of Bravo Company, 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment, 3rd Brigade, 10th Mountain Division) SPC Justin Smith (Face up on floor) roughhouses with another soldier after a night of drinking in the infantry barracks at Fort Drum, NY, January, 2010. The barracks at Fort Drum house unmarried soldiers.

  • Two days after being released from active-duty, Veteran Billy Martinez stares at an isle of hair products during his first trip to Walmart after returning from a 12 month deployment in Afghanistan and 4 years in the service. Martinez sufferes from accute anxiety and has a difficult time shopping in large stores and being around large crowds; Texas, April, 2011.

  • A journal entry by US military service member, Chris Conte, written about his friend SPC Dirk Terpstra who committed suicide on Feb. 24, 2010, near his home in Michigan; Dirk Terpstra, 26, who, after having served a 12-month tour in Afghanistan in 2009, shot himself in the head in a family friend's front yard. Terpstra's family said that although before his deployment Terpstra experienced deep depression and had previously made suicidal attempts, they believe that his depression worsened after having served in Afghanistan.


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