Photographer David Jay specializes in fashion and beauty, stuff that's "beautiful and sexy — and completely untrue," as he puts it. But that's not all he photographs.
Three years ago, Jay began to take pictures of young, severely wounded soldiers returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are big proponents of helping vets get their hands on medical marijuana to treat PTSD. But sometimes we need to go deeper into the subject and see why vets have PTSD in the first place, and why it's so important to do everything we can to help them. That's why WeedHorn took the 1/1/1 pledge that sets aside 1% of the entire company to helping vets.
Trigger warning: These portraits don't shy away from wounded bodies.
Be prepared. I found them shocking at first. But keep looking. The more I looked, the more beauty and humanity I found reflected here. (The photo captions are from the Jay's Unknown Soldier Project Facebook page.)
1st Lt. Nicholas John Vogt, U.S. Army. On Nov. 12, 2011, he was severely injured by an IED while on a foot-patrol in Panjwaii, Afghanistanphoto: David Jay/The Unknown Soldier
When asked if this photo could be shared online, Vogt replied by saying, "The only thing that I want to pass on is this: Losing limbs is like losing a good friend. We wish we could still be with them, but it wasn't 'in the cards.' Then we get up, remember the good times, and thank God for whatever we have left.
In a National Public Radio interview about his project, photography David Jay said, "You can imagine how many times each of these men and women have heard a parent tell their child, 'Don't look. Don't stare at him. That's rude.'"
photo: David Jay Photography
Jay wants us to see, to become even a little familiar with the tragic loss of limbs and burned skin of wounded vets — his portraits are 4 feet wide — but he also wants us to see them as people and to think about their experiences and those of people in their lives.
Bobby Bernier was hit by incoming artillery sustaining burns on over 60% of his body while serving his country. He's pictured here with his daughter, Layla.photo: David Jay Photography
In San Antonio, Texas friends Daniel Burgess and Bobby Bernier were photographed by David Jay Photography while sharing their stories.
Maj. Matt Smith allowed photographer David Jay to photograph him at the Reed Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. photo: David Jay Photography
In Paktika province, Afghanistan, Matt was shot along with five others by a member of the Afghan National Army. The bullet severed his femoral artery, resulting in the amputation of his leg. A private and soulful man, it was an honor to photograph him. Thank you, Maj. Smith.
photo: David Jay Photography
"To the men and women of The Unknown Soldier, I can't thank you enough for your courage and sacrifice ... both on and off the battlefield. It is an honor to photography you." -David Jay
Jerral Hancock was driving a tank in Iraq when a roadside bomb pierced the armor, breaching the interior.photo: David Jay Photography
Jerral Hancock lives in California with his two beautiful children.
Cedric Kingphoto: David Jay Photography
Cedric was injured in Afghanistan while serving his family. He was injured by an explosion that left him with multiple internal and external injuries, losing both his legs. Cedric saw another vet swimming at the pool at Walter Reed Medical Center and became interested in swimming. Doing laps has saved his life.
Michael FoxDavid Jay Photography
Former Marine, Michael Fox was on foot patrol in the Helmand province of Afghanistan when he was injured.
Staff Sgt. Shilo Harrisphoto: David Jay Photography
Staff Sgt. Harris was severely burned on February 19, 2007 after a roadside bomb took three lives out of the five in his crew. Only Harris and his driver survived the blast. He is one of the many amazing men and women who have had to rebuild their lives after returning from war.
David Jay Photography
The Library of Congress has acquired images from Jay's The Unknown Soldier project as part of its documentation of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This speaks to the power of these images in capturing war's aftermath. But they are so much more than documentation.
Photos like these are a reminder of the heavy toll veterans face and how they live the rest of their lives after suffering serious injuries. This post originally appeared in Upworthy. Please support our vets and help them get the medical marijuana they need to survive.