Filmmaker Lalange Snow photographed and interviewed 14 members of 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland before they were sent to Afghanistan, after three months’ service, and mere days after coming back home from their deployment.
War changes people, and the soldiers’ faces show a glimpse of the toll that fighting in Afghanistan takes on the troops.
As you scroll through the following photos, take a look at the physical change that is so evidently captured. You will see the emotional burden experienced by the men. Soldiers must learn how to not only be brave, but detach emotionally. This takes its toll, and can cause depression, alcoholism, and suicide among those who have been deployed.
In each first photo you may notice signs of nervousness and uncertainty in the eyes of the soldiers. The center photos feel very present, almost as if the soldiers are saying: “I’m right here in it,” with hardened looks that show self preservation. The last photos show a mixture of relief, regret, and fear. But these are just words, and no words can truly help anyone on the outside understand exactly what’s going on in the inside — this personal transition for each individual soldier.
While there was likely intense suffering during those months, the images show that some made it out with that feeling of relief, and knowing they are still human. Others appear to be fully broken; they are displaced.
Interviews with the soldiers provide a deeper glimpse at how the war changes people:
Private Chris MacGregor, 24
11th March, Edinburgh: “Obviously I’ll miss family but other than that I am going to miss my dogs more than anything. They are my de-stressers and keep me sane. I think I’ll miss TV too though. I try not to think about the worst case scenario.”
19th June, Compound 19, Nad Ali, after an IED incident: “Most people get used to being away from home but I find it hard. It’s your fear that keeps you alive here. But I believe if it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen and theres nothing you can do about it. If the big man upstairs could do anything, there’d be no dead soldiers. They’d all be alive. It still hurts when you hear about a soldier dying. You think about what their families are going through. You ask what they died for and what we are achieving here. I am not sure any more. That Afghan soldier losing his legs just now… I don’t know….”
28th August, Edinburgh, after being evacuated due to sustained knee injury from Iraq: “My legs just gave up. I think it was the weight – 135 pounds or something. I just had to accept, my body was telling me to give up as I had pushed it. I was telling it to go, it was telling me to stop. When squaddies come back they still have a lot of adrenaline and anger in them. I had to have anger management after Iraq. If I get like that now, I just go for a walk with the dogs. It is the best way to deal with it, instead of being all tense and ready to snap at folk. The first thing I did when I came back, apart from kissing and cuddling the misses and my bairn, was go for a massive walk with the dogs. I walked for miles and miles not caring where I stepped.”