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Post-9/11 Service and the War on Terror: A Guide to Photo Collections in the Veterans History Project

Many veterans document their military service experience through personal photography. This guide features a selection of photographic materials available online related to the Global War on Terrorism.

Introduction

Soldiers and flags during a ceremony honoring a fallen soldier. 2004. Lee Ingrid Papanek Lane Collection. Library of Congress Veterans History Project.

The Veterans History Project (VHP) at the Library of Congress collects and preserves the firsthand interviews and narratives of United States military veterans from World War I through the present. This includes collections relating to veterans of the Global War on Terrorism. Comprised of oral histories, photographs, correspondence, journals, military documents, memoirs, and more, these collections document the personal stories of individual veterans.

This guide will introduce a selection of photographic collections within VHP's holdings related to the Global War on Terrorism. VHP is a public participation program, and as such, this guide is not meant to be an exhaustive history of the Global War on Terrorism, but rather to help you explore VHP's related collection materials, to assist users in navigating our online database, and provide some ideas for further research.

Use the navigation menu for this guide to read each veteran's story and view their photographs. For more information about the illustrations, follow the caption links.

For more guidance on how to use the VHP's online database to search for related collections, please see the Research Guide Veterans History Project (VHP): Exploring the Collections.

Background

This year marks the twenty-year anniversary of the September 11 terrorist attacks, and in the two decades that have passed, the Veterans History Project (VHP) has archived thousands of narratives from veterans who served in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere during the War on Terror. Many of these narratives include snapshot photographs taken by the veterans during their deployments.

While servicemembers have always sought to document their journeys, the increased accessibility of digital cameras in the early to mid-2000s made it even easier for those who served in Iraq and Afghanistan to capture the sights and scenes of life overseas. Unlike previous generations, these veterans were able to use pocket-sized cameras to take hundreds of photographs without worrying about running out of film or how to develop their shots. Their efforts at photography enabled them to share their experiences with friends and family back home in nearly real-time via email or social media.

Now, years and decades later, these photographs stand as important historical sources, conveying what oftentimes words cannot, and are a treasured element of the Veterans History Project archive. For this research guide, we have chosen to spotlight ten VHP collections that include photographs taken by veterans who participated in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

This research guide acts as a companion to our online presentation titled “Twenty Years of Service: Post 9/11 Veterans." Both this guide and our online presentation explore just a tiny fraction of our overall holdings. For more information on how to use our collections, see our research guide: Veterans History Project (VHP): Exploring the Collections.

Selected Photographs from the Veterans History Project

About the Veterans History Project

The Veterans History Project (VHP) of the American Folklife Center collects, preserves, and makes accessible the personal accounts of American war veterans so that future generations may hear directly from veterans and better understand the realities of war.