Health Editor’s Note: Here is an article from Smithsonian magazine’s January/February 2018 issue, in which photojournalist Victor J. Blue documents the journey of a wounded Marine’s return. The story begins with Victor Blue arrival, in July of 2010, at small firebase in Marjah, in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand Province. As an embedded photojournalist, he was used to being close to soldiers and marines, both physically and otherwise, as he would go out on patrol with them to capture the war. Blue then follows Corporal Manuel Jimenez for the next eight years as Jimenez moved forward with his life. Great story from Smithsonian Magazine…Carol
The Story Begins: One fateful afternoon, Blue accompanied the First Platoon, Fox Company, 2-6 Marines on a patrol mission, similar to a handful of other missions he’d been on during his first few days with the unit. But this one was different. As they were returning to the base, an improvised explosive device buried in the road exploded right as Cpl. Manuel Jimenez walked by it. It blew apart his arm, filled him with shrapnel and almost severed his carotid artery.
Over the course of the eight years since sharing the experiences of that terrible day, Blue kept in touch with Jimenez — visiting him at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, at his family home in New Britain, Connecticut, and following him as he volunteered in New York after Hurricane Sandy, participated in the 5K Run for the Warriors race and completed his B.A. in business — documenting and capturing his path to recovery in photos.
The time stamp on the first picture I made after the blast, out of focus and full of dust, says 11:26:06 a.m.
A few pictures later, at 11:27:41, team leader Cpl. Eric Hopp has a tourniquet on Cpl. Manuel Jimenez’s arm. Only about 1 minute and 35 seconds, from blast to stopping the bleed. I remember the force of the explosion and how it made my shoulders seize and then I couldn’t hear. How I looked back and forth, trying to figure out where it came from until I realized it was right behind me. I remember I wheeled around and saw a curtain of white and I felt Corporal Hopp running past me. I pushed the button and squeezed off a couple of pictures, but the camera wouldn’t focus. It felt like someone slowly turned up the volume in my head, and then I could hear Jimenez screaming. I ran into the white dust until I saw him on the ground, writhing, and Corporal Hopp above him, saving him.
The war in Afghanistan took Cpl. Manuel Jimenez’s left arm. But in the eight years since we shared that terrible day, he’s made it clear that an arm is all he let it take from him.
Read more about Corporal Manuel Jimenez’s story written by Victor J. Blue and see pictures taken by Blue from his position of being an embedded photojournalist in Afghanistan with First Platoon, Fox Company, 2-6 Marines.