Distance is not always measured in miles (from 2007)

Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 10.19.22 PMTerry gathers his helmet, flak jacket and gear as he prepares to head south to a forward operating base, or FOB in mil-speak. . .   

..while Lee stays behind at Bagram to film religious observances like this Seder, visit the base hospital, and conduct interviews.   Screen Shot 2014-04-18 at 10.22.09 PMShe hopes to link up soon with Terry at his FOB…he hopes she’ll bring along some of the clean clothes he had to leave behind!

This is excerpted from a recent e-mail Lee sent me (Bill) from Bagram:

I recently spent a morning at the hospital with the chaplain, but I realize that the only way to get good coverage is to simply be there day in and day out, hanging, camera to the ready.  There are some moving moments here, as you might expect.  At one point the chaplain bent over a dying Afghani, saying a Muslim prayer.  The man had been mortally wounded in an IED blast, and the doctors and the nurses knew that he would never wake up.  By lunchtime he had died, another tragic story of war and loss.

The camera, with its tiny monitor, has a most uncanny effect on me.  As a long-time print journalist I am used to feeling myself the objective observer, but this is substantially different.  The camera seems to remove me from the reality and the lives of those whose images it captures.  They become shapes and forms inside a frame, symbols of the reality beyond the lens:  a child hurt by a mine, or a man badly burned.  I find it somehow hard to connect to these ‘protagonists’ as people the way I know I would if I just came into the ward and sat by their bedsides.

It isn’t a coldness exactly, because I don’t feel in any way callous toward them.  I take the trouble to smile, greet them, say goodbye: I try always to act and feel as a fellow human being rather than just a walking camera.  But it is as if I, as the teller of their story (because the story of the patients is, in a real sense, part of the hospital chaplain’s story), have the prerogative and perhaps even the obligation not to get emotionally involved, and that the very detachment that is necessary to make sure I capture images within a frame is in itself  an expression of compassion in that situation.  I hope that makes sense.  — Lee

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Filed under chaplains, military, religion

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