Thursday, November 11, 2010

Images of An Active Military

Connotations of military service to those who have not experienced it can rely heavily on scenes and stories passed down by friends and family histories, and through the documents and images preserved by institutions and individuals alike. The collective memory about the military and active combat can become clouded, however, by portrayals that are purposefully more commercially-minded.

U.S. Army Sgt. Stephanie Tremmel, in Afghanistan (link)

Whether films based on popular military histories -- like the Band of Brothers series based on Stephen Ambrose's book, and Oliver Stone's biographical film Born on The Fourth of July, from the Ron Kovic autobiography -- or though efforts to translate contemporary events within newer entertainment formats, as with Call of Duty: Black Ops, a video game released this Tuesday, the effect of a more commercialized view of military service can be a help and hindrance to understanding how well the modern world understands and interprets military service.

Members of the 2-504th Battalion, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in Iraq (link)

While these portrayals are passionate, and often founded on fact, an unromanticized history of military service is essential to understanding the value and responsibilities of the country's volunteer military service. To that end, one tool that provides actual photography and footage of our modern, active military is the Department of Defense database,

Reenlistment ceremony for the 4th Infantry Division, 4th Combat Aviation Brigade, Afghanistan (link), whose photographs populate this post, is a collection of still imagery and film dating from 1982-forward. A search by military branch, service member name (when noted), or by country or area of deployment retrieves downloadable digital imagery. Print copies of imagery, or copies of videos, can be purchased for a fee.

U.S. Army Sgt. 1st Class Kenya Spratt, in Afghanistan (link)

The photos, combined with historic collections from the Library of Congress's American Memory, provide an even perspective on the realities of military service, as well as the opportunity to recognize common scenes of military life that have spanned the history of the United States. If nothing else, they allow viewers to escape the hyperbole of war as a commercial production, and let them instead see the faces of men and women who have and who continute to serve the country though military service.

As with any image database, users should be aware of, and follow, the terms of use for this collection.

Happy Veteran's Day.

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