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William Busbee. Panama City, Florida.William Busbee enlisted after high school. He was Army Special Forces deployed to Afghanistan’s Pech Valley. William’s convoy was attacked on a road winding through Afghanistan. The brain injuries he sustained led to his honorable discharge.He went back to America struggling with PTSD and TBI. On March 20, 2012, William texted his mother, Libby Busbee, and told her he loved her. Fearing this was a goodbye, Libby and William's two young sisters sped home. They found William sitting in his brand new Dodge Charger in the carport. He had a gun and was surrounded by police. Libby stood with her daughters, powerless, and pleaded with the officers to let her approach her son. Then William pulled the trigger.
William Busbee. Panama City, Fla. William Busbee enlisted after high school. He was Army Special Forces deployed to Afghanistan’s Pech Valley. William’s convoy was attacked on a road winding through Afghanistan. The brain injuries he sustained led to his honorable discharge.David Guttenfelder
William Busbee. Panama City, Florida.William Busbee enlisted after high school. He was Army Special Forces deployed to Afghanistan’s Pech Valley. William’s convoy was attacked on a road winding through Afghanistan. The brain injuries he sustained led to his honorable discharge.He went back to America struggling with PTSD and TBI. On March 20, 2012, William texted his mother, Libby Busbee, and told her he loved her. Fearing this was a goodbye, Libby and William's two young sisters sped home. They found William sitting in his brand new Dodge Charger in the carport. He had a gun and was surrounded by police. Libby stood with her daughters, powerless, and pleaded with the officers to let her approach her son. Then William pulled the trigger.
William Busbee. Panama City, Florida.William Busbee enlisted after high school. He was Army Special Forces deployed to Afghanistan’s Pech Valley. William’s convoy was attacked on a road winding through Afghanistan. The brain injuries he sustained led to his honorable discharge.He went back to America struggling with PTSD and TBI. On March 20, 2012, William texted his mother, Libby Busbee, and told her he loved her. Fearing this was a goodbye, Libby and William's two young sisters sped home. They found William sitting in his brand new Dodge Charger in the carport. He had a gun and was surrounded by police. Libby stood with her daughters, powerless, and pleaded with the officers to let her approach her son. Then William pulled the trigger.
Ryan Clapper ended his life in the small trailer he shared with his sister in Kenbridge, Virginia. Ryan was in the Army and was a Purple Heart recipient. He was active duty for 8 years, completed two overseas tours in Iraq (Mosul) Afghanistan and was an MP. He attempted to reenlist multiple times and was denied due to his health problems. He worked security at a local prison.
Ryan Clapper ended his life in the small trailer he shared with his sister in Kenbridge, Virginia. Ryan was in the Army and was a Purple Heart recipient. He was active duty for 8 years, completed two overseas tours in Iraq (Mosul) Afghanistan and was an MP. He attempted to reenlist multiple times and was denied due to his health problems. He worked security at a local prison.
Ryan Clapper ended his life in the small trailer he shared with his sister in Kenbridge, Virginia. His uniform short now hangs in the bedroom where he died.Ryan was in the Army and was a Purple Heart recipient. He was active duty for 8 years, completed two overseas tours in Iraq (Mosul) Afghanistan and was an MP. He attempted to reenlist multiple times and was denied due to his health problems. He worked security at a local prison.
Ryan Clapper ended his life in the small trailer he shared with his sister in Kenbridge, Virginia. Ryan was in the Army and was a Purple Heart recipient. He was active duty for 8 years, completed two overseas tours in Iraq (Mosul) Afghanistan and was an MP. He attempted to reenlist multiple times and was denied due to his health problems. He worked security at a local prison.
Clay Ward was deployed to Iraq. His wife Sabine Ward stood by his side as he struggled to adjust to civilian life. He was diagnosed with PTSD and haunted by the effects of war. When it grew overwhelming, he took his gun, waded into the pool behind their house, and pulled the trigger. A year later, his wife Sabine tried to finish a bottle of pills he had left behind.
Clay Ward was deployed to Iraq. His wife Sabine Ward stood by his side as he struggled to adjust to civilian life. He was diagnosed with PTSD and haunted by the effects of war. When it grew overwhelming, he took his gun, waded into the pool behind their house, and pulled the trigger. A year later, his wife Sabine tried to finish a bottle of pills he had left behind.
Brandon Ladner. Pelham, Alabama.A large portrait of Brandon Ladner hangs in the living room of his former home. Brandon was a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran. He fought in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.Brandon, suffering from PTSD, shot himself inside his living room. The bullet remains lodged in the ceiling of the home where his mother Renee now lives.
Brandon Ladner. Pelham, Alabama.Brandon Ladner's Marine Corps boots sit on a small shelf in his bedroom. Brandon was a U.S. Marine Corps Veteran. He fought in Afghanistan's Helmand Province.Brandon, suffering from PTSD shot himself inside his living room. The bullet remains lodged in the ceiling of the home where his mother Renee now lives.
Shawn Bleeker, Ozark, Alabama.A flag hangs in a rain storm from the front porch of Shawn Bleeker's former home in Ozark, Alabama. Shawn had served as an Army helicopter pilot and instructor. He deployed four times, to Bosnia, Colombia, Honduras, and Afghanistan. An 18-year veteran, he wasjust two years from retirement. He lived on a beautiful property by a lake with his wife, two sons and two daughters. Shawn and his wife, not yet even forty, were two years from an early retirement. But Shawn struggled with PTSD, and his behavior became erratic. He started building a bunker behind the house, filling it with food and weapons. Then, one evening, he drove to an empty field behind a hotel on the edge of town and shot himself.
Shawn Bleeker, Ozark, Alabama.Shawn Bleeker's dog stands outside at the backdoor of the Bleeker's home in Ozark, Alabama.Shawn had served as an Army helicopter pilot and instructor. He deployed four times, to Bosnia, Colombia, Honduras, and Afghanistan. An 18-year veteran, he wasjust two years from retirement. He lived on a beautiful property by a lake with his wife, two sons and two daughters. Shawn and his wife, not yet even forty, were two years from an early retirement. But Shawn struggled with PTSD, and his behavior became erratic. He started building a bunker behind the house, filling it with food and weapons. Then, one evening, he drove to an empty field behind a hotel on the edge of town and shot himself.
Shawn Bleeker, Ozark, Alabama.One evening, he drove to this empty field behind a hotel on the edge of town and shot himself.Shawn had served as an Army helicopter pilot and instructor. He deployed four times, to Bosnia, Colombia, Honduras, and Afghanistan. An 18-year veteran, he wasjust two years from retirement. He lived on a beautiful property by a lake with his wife, two sons and two daughters. Shawn and his wife, not yet even forty, were two years from an early retirement. But Shawn struggled with PTSD, and his behavior became erratic. He started building a bunker behind the house, filling it with food and weapons.
William Busbee. Panama City, Fla. William Busbee enlisted after high school. He was Army Special Forces deployed to Afg
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David Guttenfelder
1 of 13

Ad Agency and Photographer Work to Highlight the Home Front

May 13, 2015

Each day, 22 U.S. veterans commit suicide on American soil.

That average, released by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs in 2013, is at the center of a surprising new campaign, dubbed Mission 22, from advertising agency CP+B and the nonprofit veteran organization Elder Heart. The project is designed “to open the eyes of the American public,” says Daniel Pradilla, an associate creative director at the agency.

With the help of photographer David Guttenfelder, who covered the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan for the Associated Press, Mission 22 takes a novel approach to advocacy work by bringing the message directly to its public. “CP+B is a big ad agency that starts national conversations about products,” says Guttenfelder, “and they wanted to do something about this issue. They wanted to see if they could take the same approach to an ad campaign to the [issue of suicide among veterans].”

The campaign is devised around the stories of five veterans — William Busbee, Shawn Bleeker, Ryan Clapper, Brandon Ladner and Clay Ward — who committed suicide after their tours of duty. “More military men and women die at home each day than in our conflicts abroad,” Pradilla tells TIME. “That means that the deadliest battlefields aren’t remote deserts or faraway countries but our own living rooms, bedrooms, backyards and garages. These battlefields are unexpected. That makes you stop and think.”

The best way to convey that message, CP+B found, was to photograph these spaces and put the resulting images on billboards across the nation. “This work brings war to a place that is familiar,” says Pradilla. “Coming home is supposed to be completely safe. But then, you see David’s photographs and read these veterans’ stories, and you realize it’s not."

Guttenfelder, who resigned from AP last year to go freelance, had wanted to cover the second half of his war story: the return home. When he got back to the U.S., after spending 15 years traveling the world from one hot spot to the next, he brought a group of photographers together, launched the Everyday USA account on Instagram and helped coordinate for the group to do a Veterans Day project with TIME last November.

But Guttenfelder wanted to do more. So, when he was approached by CP+B, he saw an opportunity. “They were looking for a photographer who had the same story [as these veterans] and who could meet the families and understand,” he explains.

The result, on a personal level, stunned Guttenfelder. “When I was meeting the families and going through this, I was surprised how much of a connection I felt with these people who took their lives because of the struggles that they faced when they came home: trying to find purpose, trying to deal with the horrible things that they had seen. [That connection] was more powerful than I had expected.”

“I would never try to compare my experience to someone who fought in a war,” he adds, “but I did spend my entire adult life covering war and violence and tragedy. I had a very clear purpose, a very strong sense of what my identity was. And to come home to the U.S. and to have to reinvent myself, it opened up a door to understand how confusing and difficult and painful it is for [these soldiers] to come back and not know what they’re supposed to do now. I understood it in a different way.”

https://www.youtube.com/embed/tskg0G9nBPo

Guttenfelder’s photographs are a departure for the former wire photographer: they are simple and quiet black-and-white portraits of the spaces where these veterans committed suicide. They tell a story of familiarity — one that anyone could grasp — and that was CP+B’s precise goal.

The advertising agency published Guttenfelder’s photographs in four national newspapers and magazines, and across 300 billboards in the U.S., including five in the towns where these veterans committed suicide. “To put a billboard on the street near the houses where this happened is not just about educating people, it’s about educating the people who go to the grocery store with these families,” says Guttenfelder.

CP+B has also produced a mini-documentary and an interactive website — with calls for action for veterans and their families — with a traveling exhibition planned for later this year.

For Guttenfelder, Mission 22 is also the beginning of his next personal project, one that will deal with suicide and posttraumatic stress disorder — another focus that, for the former conflict photographer, hits close to home.

Find out more about Mission 22.

Olivier Laurent is the editor of TIME LightBox. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @olivierclaurent

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