Every month 690 Iraq/Afghanistan veterans commit suicide. I’ll repeat that: Every month 690 Iraq/Afghanistan veterans commit suicide. PTSD or major depression are reported by 300,000 Iraq veterans. Those veterans who file disability claims to receive assistance wait an average of 183 days for help. The situation is reprehensible, and there’s no sign that it’s going to improve.
That’s the topic of photojournalist Ashley Gilbertson’s “The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce,” featured in the Fall 2008 issue of VQR. He tells the story of just one veteran, the 23-year-old Pierce, who took a handgun and shot himself in the head on the night of July 25, 2008, tortured by the memories of what he’d seen and what he’d done in his two tours of duty in Iraq.
I sat down with Ashley a few weeks ago to discuss how he became interested in this topic, why it’s so important, and what it’s been like for him to write about and photograph something so difficult.
Also, you can listen to the talk Ashley gave to UVA students and the public at the Jefferson Society here at UVa in October, on the same topic.