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Interview with Ashley Gilbertson


PUBLISHED: December 3, 2008

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.

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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.

2 Comments

Elizabeth Westmark's picture
I’ve returned several times to read Ashley Gilbertson’s powerful, painful story, “The Life and Lonely Death of Noah Pierce.” Waldo, I thought at first your 690 a week number surely must be a typographical error. I’ve spent the last hour googling what paltry information there is on this topic. “Eye-opening.” That’s an understatement. Thanks for contributing to my education.
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Waldo Jaquith's picture
Elizabeth, I think all of us at VQR had the same reaction when we first read that number; I know I did. It just seemed impossible—deaths on such a scale would surely be common knowledge. As you’ve surely discovered googling around, the numbers are all-too-true, but that doesn’t make them any more well known.
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