A year and a half ago my son and I started down a path that changed our lives. As a country we had just learned there was going to be an end to Combat Operations in Iraq, but there was a lesser-reported story emerging: veterans were starting to die by their own hands at home, at a higher rate than on the battlefield. We decided then that we were going to meet the men and women who served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, document our experience and talk about how we – Americans – can serve those who served us.
When we first began, we realized there was a disconnect. We didn’t know a single veteran and initially we had trouble connecting with them. After exhaustive research; tapping out friends, families and social networks we began to find them. At the beginning we would go on 26-32 hour road trips to connect with a veteran for a single interview. And once we arrived we would discover the veteran wouldn’t want to talk about much of their experience, and certainly not on camera. It became clear that these men and women had been through things that many of us couldn’t comprehend and rehashing it was very painful.
In May of 2012 we made an almighty push. A road trip from Chicago to Los Angeles, across Route 66 – direct through America’s Heartland. Documenting the whole way we met with veterans from every branch of the military; men and women who had been deployed as many as 4 times to the frigid mountains of Afghanistan and the blazing heat of the Iraqi desert. We interviewed these vets and their families and even citizens who have no connection to the military. Our goal was to get as complete a picture as we could.
Slowly and carefully we extracted stories from these veterans. Stories of the people they were before service, on deployment and now, what life is like after war. It is oft reported that “war is hell” and “war changes you”, but those phrases do little to describe how both broad and nuanced war affects those who experience it. No one knows the true cost of battle. No one.
We completed our trip and have gathered hundreds of hours of footage, thousands of photographs, and one amazing story. We are gathering our resources for one final push to present this film to the American public. To give this project to those who have served, and those who have benefited from service.
About the Authors
Hailing from Chicago, Kurt and Nick Gerber are a father and son team who have been around the world together making photographs that tell the stories of their journeys. For their latest adventure, they tackled something closer to their hearts, and to the hearts of all Americans. In a time when Americans are pushed apart by pundits and politics, the duo decided to highlight important issues that resonate with the left and right. Using their skills as storytellers, they crossed the American west on Route 66. They met, interviewed and photographed veterans who have served over the last 10 years. Follow their progress on Facebook and Twitter. Participate in Operation Route 66 – visit the Kickstarter project by CLICKING HERE!