For the United States military community, to which I belong, the idea of home can be very complex. It can shift and acquire new meanings that go beyond a physical place, and take form in a group of persons, objects, or feelings. We easily enumerate how many places we have been to, answer where we live now, or identify the many commonalities we all experience as a community. At an individual level, however, our perception of home becomes a much more personal and complex experience.
This photographic series is my personal exploration into the perceptions of home for members of the military community. Growing up as a military brat, I began this search for camaraderie when I moved away from my home, a military town near a large city. My experience inside the military differed from my new surrounding and peers. Feeling misunderstood, I searched for others in the military community who shared similar experiences to mine. This exploration has allowed me to interject myself into the lives of military personnel and their families, observing each individual’s perception of home
Due to United States consecutive years at war, suicide among military personnel is one of the highest concerns in the military community. There are parents, children, siblings, and spouses who are affected and suffer with the reality determined by their loved ones. This reality causes an experience of loss. The definition of loss can be described as the state of being deprived of or of being without something that one has had. It is a painful, overwhelming, and fragile feeling to carry. While dealing with loss, your current reality no longer seems important. This can lead to having emotions of anger, sadness, hate, and shame. Loss can become uncontrollable, and reactions vary in every person who has to experience it. Everything from this point on until healing is overshadowed by this encounter with this feeling. I created this installation as a personal tribute to the fallen heroes in my community that have felt this method was the only way for internal peace. Hand crafting this was exciting for me to find a way to bring awareness to this sensitive topic, but with every stich I felt the stabbings of a constant loss over and over. This installation is constructed of yellow loop ribbons, and yellow thread. These are the only materials that were important to me because they are symbolic of many things. Yellow is the color of both suicide awareness, and support for our troops. In the United States it also serves as the color for memorial. The thread for me acts as a universal metaphor for binding, and while suicide happens for many reasons, the feeling everyone affected experiences is loss. With the dimensions of the American flag in mind, I wanted to make this representation of what soldiers are known to do, this being protecting America at any cost. We in the military community present our flags with pride and honor, and while many people on the outside feel that suicide is a cowardly way to die, or an easy way out of life I don’t agree. I give back this flag to the souls that wear this proudly on their uniforms, under a profession where their life is always uncertain. Their souls will live on in the hearts of all of their loved ones, and we will continue to honor them for who they were.
Headlines is a reaction to how the media dispenses the propaganda surrounding the victims of police brutality and injustice in America. Using all available technology, I find articles and publications on the web, and broadcast them over members of the African American communities using a projector. These images often carry messages that feed into many stereotypes that are already placed on our community. In many attempts, it’s meant to distract from the real issue. They show the criminal past of a person, mugshots, violent riots, etc. This instead aims more at justifying why our lives are being senselessly taken, instead of acknowledging that there is a problem. While the projections are temporary on their subjects, this refraction distorts the main image calling into existence the lives that have to stand in front of these realities.
One thing I have never been good with is adaptation and readjustment. In most military families, we become very good at these things, but for me it maximizes the voids I already carry. This realization has made me materialistic about my memories and experiences. They have become the only thing I care to hold on to in my life. While I have lived many places, I was fortunate enough to stay in Texas for 15 years. When I had to move to Georgia as an adult, I left behind my friends, my experiences, and the most consistent form of stability I had. Over the last two years I have been traveling between Texas and Georgia, driving and flying through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama along the way. Finding Texas is my exploration to seek out places for me to reflect and re-experience moments I have been yearning to get back to. While I only encounter most of these places and events for a short time, it brings me relief to get lost in the feelings that help combat my displacement.
An ideal childhood for most American children consists or lifelong friends, living in one or two places, and being careless. Military children however have much more complex upbringings, that act as a catalyst of their experiences through adulthood. While each experience is different, the majority of civilians have a guided perception of our lifestyles. While our lives can be filled with great opportunities, there are issues under the surface that do not have a dialogue. The military is made up of very diverse families and cultures, which all share the commonality of adapting. We survive the overall lifestyle; the deployments, relocation, relationships, finance issues, health traumas and reality of possible deaths in our community. Being in a family of anyone in the military can be a challenge, but being a child of the military has its own set of circumstances that affect our lives from birth to the present.
Stay is an investigation into the lives of military children who’ve experienced most of their childhood in between 1985 – 2013. Each person provides a picture that is significant to them and is a personal story in their lives. In their most current space, their picture is projected in the area that provides the most comfort. The pictures represent a moment most would like to hold on to, or experience again. Stay is an analogy that ties the home and memories together, that essentially for military children are both seen as temporary. For each person the temporary can be good or bad, but the temporary still has a permanent impact that subconsciously still affects these military children who are now adults.
Without is an investigation to display the moments that to the majority of civilians (non-military persons) are hindsight. While most people are out living their lives, our military personnel are bravely serving, while the families behind them serve quietly and continue to stay strong. These projected images can be found anywhere with a google search, on television or in movies. In reality however, once the projector turns off, for people in the military community these images continue to live on in their daily lives.
This project was made using images found online searching the term “Military Lifestyle”. They are projected onto individuals, some who have a connection to the military, and others who don’t. Every story is different with some of the narratives being fiction and some non-fiction. My goal is to acknowledge and honor the sacrifices behind our freedoms.