Magazine article The American Prospect

Notebook

Magazine article The American Prospect

Notebook

Article excerpt

In July 2011, equipped with his sketching tools, a camera, borrowed Kevlar, and Dragon Skin body armor, illustrator VICTOR JUHASZ arrived in Kandahar, Afghanistan, to embed for three weeks with Major Shane Mendenhall and his medevac unit, the 1-52nd Arctic Dustoff out of Fairbanks, Alaska, as well as members of Alpha Company 7-101 from Fort Campbell, Kentucky. Juhasz had participated in the United States Air Force Art Program for several years, documenting in drawings various Air Force operations on bases around the U.S. and overseas. This independent trip, with extended time in a war zone, would give him a chance to do more. "Rendering planes in the sky or on the ground had not been what drew me to the program," Juhasz writes. "I was looking to draw real people who happen to be warriors; to witness and create images both on the spot and back in the studio telling their stories." Presented here is a sampling of his work and observations from his trip.

Welcome to Kandahar Airfield. Rousted out of bed early my first morning by a loud knock on the door and instructions to head to the bunkers. A missile attack. As disoriented as I was from the lack of sleep, I still managed to grab a pad and pencils. These events were more annoying than scary.

Staff Sergeant Kyle Clark, a medic, was tired; he'd had enough. Tough but philosophical, Kyle had nuanced observations on the situation and the people in Afghanistan. He did not cast judgment. The hardships and short life spans among the populace created a certain detached acceptance, an apathy of sorts, of suffering and dying that we in the relative comfort of the West would have a hard time comprehending. Kyle is now at Fort Bragg training in civil affairs.

Jon Roan, a retired Army sergeant, now contractor, seemed to exude a strong desire to tell his story. Tagged three times in IED blasts, the last time suffering a broken back when his truck got hit. Shot at point-blank standing guard at an outpost. Finally decided that he had played his luck cards enough and was back in Afghanistan negotiating contracts for services like cleaning, laundry, calmer stuff.

Most everyone had dreams of what was next in their life--even if it meant remaining in the service. …

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