Over the past year I have been collaborating with military widows from across the United States, documenting their stories of adjustment to the new realities of their lives. The goal is to create an honest and intimate portrait of the “other side” of the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan, casualties of these wars that are too often overlooked. As Brigette Cain, a 27-year-old widow from Illinois, puts it: “We are the silent army, our battlefields are just different.” Nearly half of the almost 5800 service members killed in Iraq and Afghanistan since the start of these wars were married.
The more widows I meet, the more I realize that each of their circumstances and outlooks are unique. These women, most of whom are in their 20s and early 30s, find themselves suddenly very alone in their attempts to keep themselves and their families afloat in the deep and unchartered waters of their grief, and each widow must deal with her loss in her own way, and in her own time. My hope is not just to tell these individual stories but to shed light upon the “silent army” on the home front, creating a historical document through images of the men and women who are otherwise merely recorded as so many numbers.
Taryn Davis, a 24-year-old widow and founder of The American Widow Project, has been an advocate of my project and has been sending messages to members all over the country asking anyone eager to participate to contact me. I am committed to realizing this project’s full potential and I believe that its impact and power are in the numbers – how many stories I can tell.
Our goal is to create a more extensive and diverse portrait of the country now, one that gives these wars a more human, less statistical, and less political face. We hope that in the future, as the project progresses, we will bring this work to the public with a traveling exhibition and publication of a book of the portraits and stories.
– Gina LeVay, New York City, November 2010