For several years I’ve frequently visited Camp Lejeune, a large Marine base two hours east of where I live, on the North Carolina coast.
I go because they have a brig — a jail — and several of the GIs I have worked with as resisters to war have served time in it.
Here’s a photo of the gate there from which prisoners are released; the man just about to emerge is Clifford Cornell, a GI resister who was released in January.
Early on in these visits I noticed homemade banners hanging on a fence along the public highway to the base. They were made by families to welcome Marines back from combat deployment in Iraq.
Many of the banners were very simple: “Welcome home Corporal x, we missed you.”
But many were more than that: funny, touching, naughty, and catch-in-the-throat.
They were also ephemeral: hanging on the fence, ripped by wind and weather, til they fell off or someone took them down to put up new ones.
Soon enough, I started taking pictures of the most striking ones, to document this remarkable form of military “folk art.” That was in 2004.
Five years later, the wars are still going on, and the combat deployments for Marines have piled up. And as a result, I have dozens of these photographs.
I believe they give a very special glimpse into the impact of the wars on the American families who bear their brunt. And these expressions, at once both intimate and public, deserve a wider audience.
So I’ve made a one hundred-page book: Priceless: Welcome Home Banners For US Troops Returning From War
It’s now available at the print-on-demand site, blurb.com. The link above will take you to a sample of what’s in it; you can also see some of the banners at the Quaker House website here.
BTW there’s no “political” commentary in the book. I want to let the pictures do the communicating, and leave readers to their own reactions. For me, the banners are full of silent eloquence.