Photos of dying Marine raises tough questions


A Marine, left, and Amy Flight Medic Staff Sgt. Richard Jarrett rush Marine Pfc. Justin Turner, of Flower Mound, Texas, across an irrigated field deep to a waiting Army Task Force Shadow medevac helicopter, west of Lashkar Gah, in southern Afghanistan. Turner was wounded in an IED attack. Four other photos that accompany the AP story showed mortally wounded Marines. (AP Photo/Brennan Linsley)

An Associated Press story released Sunday provides gripping insight into the aeromedical teams of the 101st Airborne’s Task Force Destiny – remarkable men and women who provide fast medical evacuation throughout southern Afghanistan. This team has evacuated more than 2,500 patients since spring.

But the photos accompanying the story are getting more attention than the aeromedical team. The powerful pics were shot by photographer Brennan Linsley. He spent five days with the team, and the AP selected and transmitted 12 photos to accompany the story.

Four of those photos show mortally wounded Marines.

The debate is not new. It has echoed across battlefields since the Civil War. But this story and photos, which hit newspapers nationwide, presents a question that has largely been sidestepped for much of the past decade. That’s because few photos of this nature have been published. We’re not talking about photos of caskets being greeted by an honor guard in the dark of night. We are talking about photos of brave young men succumbing to their wounds on a bloody battlefield.

How the nation will respond to these remains to be seen.

The Associated Press explained its decision in this article. It pointed out that “images of the medics’ unsuccessful attempts to save the two are part of a story and photo package on Linsley’s time with the combat casualty evacuation unit. There also are photos of two wounded Marines who were rescued and survived. …

The distribution and publication of photos of dead servicemen and women can be controversial because some people feel it disrespectful. Others feel such images reflect the realities of combat. That is the AP’s position …”

The article goes on to say the story and photos were transmitted in advance “to give editors more time to decide if and how they want to use” the material. Linsley also contacted the fallen Marines’ families to inform them of the publication plans.

Among his photos are a series in which medics desperately work to save the life of Marine Lance Cpl. Ross S. Carver, of Rocky Point, N.C. A struggle that is all-too-familiar to combat vets is captured on Carver’s face in one photo. Another shows the team feverishly tending to his wounds on the helo. Another shows one medic straddling the Marine to give chest compressions as the team rushes him into the medical facility. Despite their evident effort, Carver does not pull through.

Linsley, in the accompanying story, described his feelings.

“When a soldier or Marine dies, it makes the war horribly real,” he said. “As I was photographing the dying man half my age, I thought about all the things he would never see or do.”

What do you think? Is the distribution and publication of these photos disrespectful, or is this a responsible act to rightly reflect the realities of combat?


About Author

A Navy brat who spent eight years in the Marines (two years aboard the carrier Independence). Worked in journalism in Eastern North Carolina through the latter part of the 90s, then became editor of Air Force Times in 2000. Stayed there five years, then took a break to finish some school. Now back in the game with Navy Times.

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  1. Rodney Dickhute on

    I think that as horrible as it is to see such a sight published, that its important for the people of our nation to see what OUR men and women are gong through to provide us the safety and freedom we are allowed to have here in the United States! May God watch over and protect those that are strving so hard to protect us!

  2. I think it should be up to the families of the men who die, how they feel about their son’s death being publicized. Their decision.

  3. Just speaking from a personal opinion, the images remind me that the United States is still fighting a very “real” war abroad and illustrates the sacrifices our service members are making as opposed to the news crawl on the bottom of media channels that anonymously list casualties as mere statistics of an increasingly “marginalized” viewed conflict by U.S. public.

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