SPC James March wears his Class A uniform before going home on leave, January, 2010. After serving in Afghanistan March suffered from depression and in February 2015, at age 31, he took his own life in Painesville, Ohio. March loved animals, music, and spending time with his brothers.
The US military and its veterans returning home from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer repercussions as devastating and traumatic as war itself. They wage a war of inner-conflict and mental trauma - the damage, irreversible, and often going undetected for years. Of the 2.6 million U.S. service members deployed to war since 9/11, 1/3 of those treated by Veteran's Affairs have been diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), 1/4 with Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), while nearly 56% of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom veterans have been diagnosed with at least one mental health condition (according to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as of 2014.). Symptoms and effects of PTSD and TBI include depression, anxiety, insomnia, substance abuse, and violent behavior, while the most extreme cases can result in suicide. In 2009, the rate of suicide among US service members began surpassing the number of those killed in action in Iraq and Afghanistan combined. Today, one US veteran commits suicide roughly every hour (22 per day).
PTSD goes beyond society’s stereotype of soldiers simply experiencing flashbacks and bad dreams. Trauma or an event that causes a brain injury can create lasting changes in different regions of the brain, including the ventromedial prefrontal cortex, the hippocampus, and the amygdala, which are responsible for regulating negative emotional responses like fear, decision-making, and memory functions. Beyond the surface of these rattling statistics war can change an individual’s identity, perspective, and view of one’s place in the world - creating an aftermath of vast separation between them and civilians. The War At Home chronicles this change – the trauma, loss, courage, and struggle so many service members experience after exiting the battlefield.
*The War At Home is a part of The Homecoming Project, a public service campaign using visual journalism, photography, and media to raise awareness of veteran issues related to war. The Homecoming Project was founded in 2011 by Erin Trieb after documenting the war in Afghanistan and the effect of trauma on US military service members and veterans. The Homecoming Project collective includes work by 30 other photojournalists along with art, writing and works created by military and veteran contributors, and is exhibited at events geared toward illuminating key issues affecting today’s veterans.
Soldiers of Bravo Company, 1-32nd Infantry Regiment have a snowball fight after being released for the weekend at the 10th Mountain Division base, Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
SPC Adam Ramsey, 22, sleeps in his locker before physical training before dawn at Fort Drum, New York, 2010. While serving a 12-month deployment in Afghanistan Ramsey was diagnosed with PTSD.
SPC Ryan Cooley and SPC Adam Ramsey smoke cigarettes in the barracks at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
SPC Daniel Brand brings cases of beer from the store to the barracks at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
A US soldier is restrained after getting in a fist fight at Maggie's bar in Watertown, New York, 2011.
US infantry soldiers PVC Cody Marshall, SPC Justin Morris, and SPC Brandon Bostwick tailor their Class A uniforms in the infantry barracks at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
Soldiers of Bravo Company, 1-32 Infantry Regiment lift weights in the gym at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
A soldier lifts SGT James Nunley to do a keg stand at a party in Watertown, New York, 2010.
Soldiers wrestle in the barracks at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
US veteran William Martinez has trouble sleeping late at night in Corpus Christie, Texas, 2010. Martinez suffers from PTSD and insomnia, both common for veterans who served in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Veteran William Martinez is overwhelmed by the choices of products during his first visit to a Walmart after returning home from serving 12 months in Afghanistan; Corpus Christie, Texas, 2010. Martinez can only stay in stores for a few minutes before undergoing an anxiety attack.
Veteran William Martinez and Larissa Garza visit the grave of soldier Rogelio Garza in Corpus Christie, Texas, 2010. Garza, belonged to the 1st Battalion 32nd Infantry Regiment and died in Afghanistan in 2006. After finishing his service in the military, Martinez visited Garza's grave in Texas for the first time.
Veteran William Martinez comforts Larissa Garza whose brother Rogelio Garza was killed in action while serving in Afghanistan; Corpus Christie, Texas, 2010.
Two soldiers from Alpha Company, 2-87 Infantry Regiment, touch the dog tags of SSG Cody Anderson at his memorial at Fort Drum, New York, 2010. After serving in Afghanistan Anderson was diagnosed with PTSD and bi-polar disorder. On the morning of Jan. 14, 2010, Anderson was found dead in his apartment. Although the Watertown newspaper first claimed his death was an "unknown suicide," police later stated that Anderson died of acute pneumonia. It is unclear whether Anderson's death was also related to the medications prescribed to him by Fort Drum's Behavioral Health Department.
Photographs of Stefanie Strausser at her home in Watertown, New York, 2010. The day after he returned from Afghanistan SSG Cody Anderson, Strausser's fiancé, blacked out from intoxication and assaulted Strausser, giving her a severely bruised eye and several lacerations. Anderson was later diagnosed with PTSD and bi-polar disorder, for which he was receiving treatment at Fort Drum.
Stefanie Strausser cries under a "welcome home" sign she made for her fiancé SSG Cody Anderson, 25, who was found dead in his apartment in Watertown, New York, 2010.
SPC Austin Murphy shows a scar on his neck where he was stabbed by fellow soldier Zachary Higgins in the barracks at Fort Drum, New York, 2011. Murphy was on guard duty when Higgins, a soldier in his platoon, approached him from behind and stabbed him in the face and neck several times. Higgins, who had been diagnosed with PTSD, was mixing medications prescribed to him by the Fort Drum Behavioral Health department with alcohol.
A soldier points to the spot where Zachery Higgins stabbed fellow soldier Austin Murphy in the face and neck. After the stabbing, Higgins awoke restrained in a hospital with no memory of the incident, and claims that he had blacked out. Higgins was sentenced to three years at Fort Levenworth military prison. Over- prescribing medications such as anti-depressants and anti-psychotics is a trend on many military bases in the United States.
Family members mourn the death of SPC Dirk Terpstra, 26, who committed suicide shortly after returning home from Afghanistan; Ft. Custer National Cemetery, Augusta, Michigan, 2010. His family said that Terpstra experienced depression and had previously attempted suicide before deploying, but that his depression grew much worse after having served in Afghanistan.
National Guard soldiers fold a flag at the funeral of SPC Dirk Terpstra who committed suicide shortly after returning home from Afghanistan; Ft. Custer National Cemetery, Augusta, Michigan, 2010. The night of his death, Terpstra visited a bar with friends where he became drunk and then shot himself in a neighbor's front yard.
Family members shovel dirt over the ashes of SPC Dirk Terpstra at Ft. Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Michigan, 2010.
Tess Terpstra comforts her brother, Brandon, after the funeral of their brother SPC Dirk Terpstra at Ft. Custer National Cemetery in Augusta, Michigan, 2010.
A soldier's journal entry about SPC Dirk Terpstra, who took his life in February, 2010.
The patch of ground where SPC Dirk Terpstra committed suicide on Feb. 24, 2010, in Kalamazoo, Michigan.
SPC Adam Ramsey, 22, looks out the bedroom window as he experience a psychotic episode in Carson City, Nevada, 2010. Ramsey served 12 months as a 240 machine gunner in Afghanistan. After returning home he became severely depression and began having psychosis and and suicidal thoughts.
SPC Adam Ramsey, his tattoo reading "adapt and overcome", on his bed in the barracks at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
SPC Adam Ramsey takes prescription medication he received from the Fort Drum Behavioral Health clinic; Carson City, Nevada, 2010. At one point Ramsey was taking 13 different prescription medications given to him by Fort Drum doctors, including several anti-psychotics - with which he was suppose to be closely monitored, but was not.
SPC Adam Ramsey waits in a parking lot to meet his drug connection in Carson City, Nevada, 2010. Ramsey had an addiction to oxycodone before joining the military - he saw joining the service as a way to curb his addiction. But after returning from Afghanistan he experienced severe anxiety and psychosis, and used opioids again to self-medicate.
SPC Adam Ramsey experiences a psychotic episode at his sister's home - he often had hallucinations that told him to hurt others or else he, himself, would be harmed; Carson City, Nevada, 2010.
SPC Adam Ramsey rubs his eyes after having an anxiety attack at his sister's house in Carson City, Nevada, 2010. While on leave in Nevada Ramsey experienced hallucinations, depression, and suicidal thoughts; he self-medicated by mixing prescribed medications with alcohol, a common practice among soldiers with post-deployment anxiety.
SPC Adam Ramsey shows where he has cut his legs using a knife; Carson City, Nevada, 2010. After coming home from Afghanistan Ramsey's mental disorder caused him to self-medicate by cutting his arms and legs, a practice that released adrenaline and helped him manage his anxiety.
SPC Adam Ramsey lies in bed with friend, Savannah Gordon, after taking opioids at his sister's house in Carson City, Nevada, 2010.
SPC Adam Ramsey checks himself into a hospital after seriously contemplating suicide in Watertown, New York, 2010. Ramsey was diagnosed with PTSD and schizoaffective disorder at a military hospital in Afghanistan, but was sent back to his combat post to continue his deployment. Back at his combat post he overdosed on prescription pills and was revived by a medic.
After checking himself in to a hospital, SPC Adam Ramsey examines the lacerations on his arm where he cut himself; Watertown, New York, 2010.
SPC Adam Ramsey pets the family dogs at his father's home in Carson City, Nevada, 2010. Ramsey kept his addiction and PTSD diagnosis a secret from his family.
SPC Adam Ramsey packs his belongings as he prepares to leave Watertown, New York. After checking himself in to a hospital, Ramsey spent several weeks at a mental health facility. By 2011 he had been medically discharged from the military and began a new life with plans to move to North Carolina with his wife.
SPC Adam Ramsey kisses his wife, Elisha, as he prepares to leave the army and move from Watertown, New York, 2011.
SPC Adam Ramsey lies exhausted on his air mattress bed with his prescription medications after packing to leave Watertown, New York in January 2011.
The barrack hallways stand deserted while soldiers are on leave; Fort Drum, 2010.
Snow thaws on a damp patch of highway in Watertown, New York, 2011.
Soldiers play volleyball during a backyard BBQ in Watertown, NY, 2010.
Soldiers from the 10th Mountain Division and civilians drink and dance at Maggie's bar in Watertown, New York, 2011.
Two soldiers kiss after getting married at the City Hall in Watertown, New York, 2010.
SPC Brian Lucy is hugged by a fellow soldier during training drills at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
Soldiers participate in training drills at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
Soldiers participate in training drills at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
SPC Ryan Cooley smokes a cigarette while on a break during training drills at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
LT John Cote swims with a log during a training drill at Fort Drum, New York, 2010.
Cadets participate in a graduation ceremony at West Point Military Academy, New York, 2010.
SPC Matthew Ledford sits at home with his wife, Scarlett, and their children at Fort Drum, New York, 2011. Ledford suffers from PTSD and anxiety.
SPC Matthew Ledford tucks his daughter in to bed at Fort Drum, New York, 2011.
Wives and their children watch their husbands leave for Afghanistan at Fort Drum, New York, 2011.
Two soldiers naps on their duffle bags before deploying to Afghanistan at Fort Drum, New York, 2011.
Soldiers say goodbye to their wives before deploying to Afghanistan at Fort Drum, New York, 2011.
Soldiers pose for pictures before they deploy to Afghanistan at Fort Drum, New York, 2011.
A young woman sits quietly in a locker room before her boyfriend deploys to Afghanistan at Fort Drum, New York, 2011.
Cadets salute during a graduation ceremony at West Point Military Academy, New York, 2010.
A soldier waits on a bus before deploying to Afghanistan, at Fort Drum, New York, 2011.
Snow thaws in a grassy field in early spring, Watertown, New York, 2011.