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A Purple Heart, the honour given to soldiers for their wounds, is one that many cling to when faced with the realities of both the return home and their time at war. Accompanying the images are first person interviews with the soldiers as they discuss why they enlisted and their experiences in Iraq, as well as their lives now and the prospect of living as disabled veterans.
The images are accompanied by first person interviews with the young soldiers who discuss their lives, reasons for enlisting, experiences in Iraq and their prospects as disabled veterans, some of them blind, some without limbs, others brain damaged and wheel-chair bound.

The words and photos make for a complex portrait of American youth, their values, their dreams, the lack of opportunity facing them upon high school graduation, and the myths of warfare which informed their decisions to join.

One soldier explained that he always wanted to be a hero and thought the military would be fun. He never imagined an RPG attack in Fallujah would leave him a cripple unable to care for a wife and two children. Another described calling the recruiting station after he saw an MTV-style Army commercial on TV. An immigrant from Pakistan, he was given his citizenship following his injury, a fair trade in his mind, a leg for an American passport. Yet another soldier left a crime, drug ridden neighbourhood in Alabama, only to return 100 percent disabled back where he started but now bedridden.

The photographs are accompanied by essays from Verlyn Klinkenborg, an author and editorial writer for the New York Times, and Tim Origer, a Vietnam veteran and former Marine who fought in the Tet offensive. He came back a 19 year-old amputee.
"I've been a documentary photographer since 1987 working in a dozen countries including Afghanistan, Bosnia, India and Vietnam, but most of my time has been spent traveling the USA trying to understand the American Way of Life."

World Press Photo 2005
Nina Berman was awarded 2nd prize in the Portraits stories section for her book Purple Hearts ; Back From Iraq

DAYS JAPAN International Photojournalism Awards 2004 2004
Nina Berman awarded 2nd prize for her book Purple Hearts ; Back From Iraq

Nina Berman has been photographing the American political and social landscape for close to 15 years. Her work has been exhibited and widely published in magazines throughout the world including Time, National Geographic, Harpers, Mother Jones, New York Times Magazine, Paris Match, and German Geo. Educated at University of Chicago and Columbia University, she lives in New York City where she also teaches at the International Centre of Photography.