Just a story about one of many great soldiers who risked it all for us. Image and content stolen from Time’s fantastic piece titled, The Images that Moved them Most: Photographers on America’s Veterans I hope they won’t mind me sharing.
Santiago Lyon comments on a June, 2011 photograph of U.S.Marine Corporal Burness Britt taken by Anja Niedringhaus. Niedringhaus died earlier this year in Afghanistan.
“Whilst embedded with the U.S. Army’s Task Force Lift ‘Dust Off,’ Charlie Company 1-214 Aviation Regiment, the late Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus made this photo of injured U.S.Marine Corporal Burness Britt after he was loaded on a helicopter in Afghanistan in June, 2011. Britt and two other Marines from the 2nd Battalion 12th Marines, 3rd Marine Division had been hit by shrapnel from a large IED. Britt’s injuries were particularly serious, a major artery had been cut. After making this photo, Anja reached over and squeezed Britt’s hand in support. He returned the gesture, squeezing tighter and tighter until eventually slipping into unconsciousness. Niedringhaus then noticed a piece of wheat stuck to his ripped shirt, which she plucked off and put it in a pocket of her body armor. Something about Britt stuck with Niedringhaus, a vastly experienced combat photographer who had documented war and conflict for over 20 years.She vowed that she would track Britt down and see how he was doing. She also carefully stowed away the piece of wheat in a safe place.
Six months later, after a great deal of effort, she finally called Britt at the Hunter Holmes McGuire Medical Center in Richmond and when she got through, a nurse answered. Niedringhaus heard her yell: ‘Britt, there is a phone call for you from a photographer in Switzerland who was there in Afghanistan when you got picked up.’ The next thing she heard was Britt’s voice. He sounded relieved that she had reached him. Anja related: ‘The memories of Helmand flooded through my head. I fumbled my words. I wanted to come to Richmond, meet him, interview him, show him the images of that day, give him the wheat sheaf and talk about his recovery. I had so many questions. He listened and in a gentle, soft voice, he said: “Yes, ma’am, I would like to see you. Come.” During that time Britt had undergone many surgeries, had suffered a major stroke and is now partially paralyzed on his right side.
The two finally met. Sitting on his bed, he looked at Anja and asked: ‘Did you bring some pictures with you?’ He wanted to see those moments in the helicopter. He studied each photo. When he looked up, he had tears in his eyes. ‘Thank you so much,’ he said. Anja pointed to one of the pictures with the piece of wheat. She told him she had brought it with her. He couldn’t believe it. She left the piece of wheat with Britt. He said it was his new lucky charm. Tragically, Anja’s own luck would run out on April 4, 2014 when an Afghan policeman opened fire on the car where she was sitting with AP reporter Kathy Gannon. Anja was killed instantly. Gannon survived and continues to recover from her injuries.”