Wings of Mercy

James Nachtwey for TIME
James Nachtwey for TIME
Members of Charlie Company of the 1-214th, known as "Dustoff," rush to the aid of a Marine severely wounded by an IED in Marjah, Afghanistan.

General William Tecumseh Sherman got it right. War is hell. But even within the cruelty of war, there exists mercy.

Across a dusty field, two U.S. Marines walk toward a helicopter, each carrying a bloodied and bandaged child. They hold the children as if they were their own. Although at this moment they appear as saviors, a few minutes earlier, they had called in air support in response to enemy fire. The shooter was among children, however (a fact that I have to believe was not known to the Marines), and two were seriously wounded by fragments from machine-gun rounds.

Innocent people are caught in the cross fire in all wars. That’s reality. The two Marines never signed up to hurt kids, and in the shock and confusion, their default reaction was to be protective of the children they indirectly had a hand in wounding. The kids were not left to die, as they might have been in another time and another place by other armies. Instead, a U.S. Army air-ambulance medevac crew was dispatched to fly them to the same medical facility that treats American casualties. If the shooter had survived, he too would have been helped.

Another snapshot from hell, another dusty field. This time it’s a Marine being carried on a litter–a young man, both his legs gone, blown off by an IED, the signature weapon of the war. The flight medic works with fierce concentration while the crew chief talks to the Marine, keeping him from passing out so he can help fight for his life as he toughs out the pain. The medevac company has as its symbol a pair of angel wings. It is seemingly not fashioned from feathers but carved out of a hard composite of brass and grit.

-James Nachtwey

Related Topics: , , ,

Latest Posts

U Ku Tha La, 38, head monk at Nang Mal Khon Phoe Pyar Monastery. Kaw Ku Village, Kayah State.

Transforming Lives in Burma, One Solar Panel at a Time

In Burma, where only a quarter of the population has access to electricity, solar panels can change lives, as Spanish photographer Ruben Salgado Escudero found out

Read More
Diana Walker—Contour by Getty Images for TIME

An Intimate Portrait of Hillary Clinton in Photographs

LOVED ONE LOST:NAME: Jabril BradleyAGE: 20DOB: 10/6/1990SEX: MaleDATE OF DEATH: 9/1/2011TIME: After MidnightLOCATION: 9th st and Ave of the States, Chester, PACIRCUMSTANCES LEADING UP TO MURDER: Bradley was riding his bike home from a friend’s house on the east side of Chester, September 1, 2011, when an unknown gunman opened fire. He was struck in the back once and continued to ride his bike home. A number of blocks later he collapsed to the ground from blood loss. He bled to death on the street. Bradley’s family claim that he was shot because of mistaken identity. According to his mother, Bradley was supposed to still be in prison. He was serving a sentence for possession of a controlled substance and was allegedly released before his time was up. Within weeks of his murder, the FBI came looking for Bradley at his mothers house, claiming that he got released by mistake. IN PHOTOGRAPH:NAME OF FAMILY MEMBERS: Sister to Jabril Bradley: Danita Harris, 30.Son to Danita Harris: Jah’lil Harris, 3.

Photojournalism Daily: Oct. 23, 2014

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 17,641 other followers