TIME photography

See the Photographs from Vietnam That Changed a Veteran’s Life

"Looking at the pictures put me right back into the jungle as if I were a 21-year-old soldier again"

When Christopher Gaynor returned home from the Vietnam War, on Feb. 6, 1968, he didn’t leave with memories alone. He had spent his 13 months in the field artillery creating pictures, too. Untrained but inspired by combat photographers, he brought one of the era’s ubiquitous Brownie cameras—before investing $94 in an Asahi Pentax SLR—to record his experience. To develop each roll of film, he took it to the Post Exchange on the base camp, they mailed it to Kodak for processing, Kodak mailed it back to Vietnam and, finally, Gaynor mailed the pictures home.

But the world he encountered when he got back to the United States wasn’t exactly ready to look at them, and neither was he. The anti-war movement was strong and attitudes toward veterans were, he found, hostile. Before the year was up, he decided to leave the country. He spent the following years in England and Spain, and didn’t return until the year the war ended, which happened 40 years ago this month on April 30, 1975.

“I put [the photos] in a box, a box from Lavoris mouthwash. I didn’t look at them, I put them in the box, sealed it up, and they stayed in that box until 2007,” Gaynor, now 70, recalled. “I didn’t want to deal with it.”

Even after his return to the United States, decades passed before he decided that he should do something with that box. In 2007, he was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, which he thinks is related to his exposure to Agent Orange during the war, and facing an illness motivated him to think about his legacy. At the time, the VFW post on Vashon Island, Wash.—where Gaynor still lives with his husband—was sponsoring a Boy Scout troop; one of the troop members wanted to scan Gaynor’s photos as part of his Eagle Scout project. Though Gaynor admits that his expectations for the results were low, he went along with the idea.

To say that he’s glad he did would be an understatement.

“I looked at them and they all came alive again,” he said. “It was completely overwhelming. All my buddies from 40 years previously [were] looking at me from these pictures, even the guys who weren’t with us anymore. Looking at the pictures put me right back into the jungle as if I were a 21-year-old soldier again.”

Gaynor notes that most of his photos, some of which can be seen above, aren’t of the dramatic scenes familiar from war photography. Rather, he captured the off times, with soldiers relaxing, playing ball, hanging out. It was portraiture, not fighting scenes, that brought back the memories.

And it wasn’t just a matter of remembering moments long buried. After opening the box, Gaynor began to investigate his own memories, digging out the letters he had sent home. He started to talk about his experiences and began to get more involved in the VFW and the American Legion. (He is the only openly gay officer of the American Legion of whom he knows, he said.) He reached out to younger veterans who had been in Iraq and Afghanistan. He established relationship with the families of his friends who had died in Vietnam. He became a consultant on the Vietnam-reenactor documentary In Country, which is out on video on demand on April 28. Though he does not want to make any money from the images, he tried to get his exposure for his photos in order to help other veterans connect with their memories, self-publishing a book of his photos and letters from the war.

The memories and images that had been buried for decades became the opposite of hidden, motivating Gaynor to reorganize his life around a new mission.

“It’s a difficult emotional stress [to revisit that time] but I had to do it,” he says. “Finding the pictures completely changed my life. There are no words to describe how it affected me. They’ve continued to reward me and live on.”

TIME Veterans

WWII Vet Who Flew on D-Day Skydives to Celebrate 95th Birthday

'You're sitting there, and you can see everything below you. It's beautiful'

A retired Air Force colonel who flew a combat plane on D-Day celebrated his 95th birthday last week perhaps one of the best ways he knew: by jumping out of an airplane at 12,000 feet.

Hal Shook of North Carolina was a combat pilot during the Allied invasion in June 1944, but after being shot down he continued to fly for the Air Force in the Korean and Vietnam Wars, according to WNCN. Though Shook gets around with the help of a walker, he’s still enthusiastic about being able to take a leap from a plane.

“It’s a joy,” he said. “You’re sitting there, and you can see everything below you. It’s beautiful.”

[WNCN]

TIME Education

University of Florida Suspends Fraternity Over Alleged Insults to Disabled Veterans

"There is no doubt that some of our members engaged in ugly and unacceptable behavior"

The University of Florida suspended one of its fraternities on Friday, after several fraternity members were accused of disrespecting wounded military veterans during an event at a Panama City Beach resort last weekend.

Members of the Zeta Beta Tau fraternity, which was already on probation for hazing during the fall semester, are accused of spitting on veterans, throwing bottles of beer over a balcony and urinating on the American flag, according to a letter sent to University of Florida President Kent Fuchs, the Gainesville Sun reports.

University officials said the chapter was accused of a series of offenses, including obscene behavior, public intoxication, theft, damage to property and physical harm. The fraternity will be suspended from participating in all university activities until the investigation has concluded.

“I am personally offended and disappointed by the behavior that has been described to me,” said student affairs vice president Dave Kratzer, also a retired U.S. Army major general, in a public statement. “This is not representative of our students or of the university.”

Fuchs and the fraternity have apologized to Linda Cope, the founder of the Warrior Beach Retreat, who had organized the gathering of about 60 veterans who fought in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Zeta Beta Tau also posted a statement to its website condemning the frat members’ misbehavior.

“While the details of their actions are still under investigation, there is no doubt that some of our members engaged in ugly and unacceptable behavior,” it reads. “Their actions have no place in ZBT or anywhere, and they will not be tolerated.” The fraternity chapter has suspended all its activities and is cooperating with the investigation, the statement added.

The University of Florida also issued a separate apology earlier Friday:

The University of Florida is extremely concerned about reports of illegal behavior involving our students last weekend in Panama City. Our policies establish standards of conduct, and we are investigating this matter.

We are deeply sorry for any hurt caused to veterans and their families. This is not representative of our students or our university.

Cope told the Gainesville Sun that she is looking forward to the university’s response.

“Nothing else is going to teach these men and women that you don’t treat these heroes with disrespect,” she said.

 

[Gainesville Sun]

TIME Veterans

Pearl Harbor’s ‘Unknown’ Dead to Be Exhumed and Identified Using DNA

This Dec. 5, 2012 photo at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu shows a gravestone of 7 unknowns from the USS Oklahoma
Audrey McAvoy—AP This Dec. 5, 2012 photo at the National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific in Honolulu shows a gravestone of 7 unknowns from the USS Oklahoma

"We will do so with dignity, respect and care”

The Pentagon said Tuesday that the bodies of up to 388 troops killed during the Pearl Harbor attacks, who are buried in “unknown” graves in Hawaii, will be disinterred and identified using the latest DNA technology.

Japanese torpedoes sank the U.S.S. Oklahoma, killing 429 servicemen, during the infamous offensive of December 1941. The sailors and Marines are entombed in Hawaii’s National Memorial Cemetery of the Pacific, but will be examined at the Hawaii laboratory of the Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Accounting Agency after families were notified Tuesday morning.

The Pentagon is optimistic it can identify the dead with forensic evidence from DNA samples and medical or dental records furnished by relatives. It has already identified 41 servicemen postmortem.

“The Secretary of Defense and I will work tirelessly to ensure your loved ones’ remains will be recovered, identified and returned to you as expeditiously as possible, and we will do so with dignity, respect and care,” said Deputy Secretary of Defense Bob Work.

All identified remains will receive military funeral honors upon return to families.

TIME mating

Why Women Like War Heroes More than Any Other Kind of Guy

A stock image of a man in a military uniform lifting up a woman
Getty Images

And why men don't find brave women attractive

In a study that could explain so much about the Brian Williams thing, it has been found that women are more sexually attracted to men who have been deemed heroic during conflict than men who have merely served in the armed forces. And—sorry, humanitarians—men who were deemed heroic during a non-war-related crisis didn’t have nearly the same game.

Meanwhile, women who were considered heroic for any reason were found to be less attractive to men than regular women. (You read that right. Less attractive.)

The findings are the result of three studies done by researchers in England and the Netherlands. First, the researchers established from archives that World War II veterans who were Medal of Honor winners had more kids on average (3.18) than other returned servicemen (2.72).

The number of offspring is not completely correlated with the frequency of springing into bed, however. So the researchers asked 92 female British students to rate how attracted they were to various profiles and the war hero came out as the No. 1 most dateworthy type. Military service was attractive to women generally, but interestingly, if the guy had no war honors, whether he had served overseas or never left home base made no difference to his magnetism. In other words, men who see more action don’t necessarily see more action.

In the third study, 159 women and 181 men studying in Holland were given various profiles to rate and again the decorated war veteran was the female favorite. Soldiers who had been honored for their work in disaster zones or humanitarian crises got no spike in interest. And, depressingly, guys were less interested in women who had done something amazingly brave than women who hadn’t, even though the participants in the study were the supposedly gender equal Dutch.

The researchers were looking at the impact of medals not to enhance the dating resumes of veterans, but to examine the effect of conflict and bravery on evolution. (Those who attract the most mating partners have the highest chance of passing on their genes.)

So why are women drawn to guys who are demonstrably willing to engage in life threatening behavior? Because they’ve proved their genetic hardiness, suggest the researchers.

“Raids, battles, and ambushes in ancestral environments, and wars in modern environments, may provide an arena for men to signal their physical and psychological strengths,” says Joost Leunissen, a psychologist at the University of Southampton and co-author of the study. The thinking is that those who have the clarity of thought to try something life-saving and the physical prowess to pull it off must be built to survive, and are therefore a good evolutionary bet.

Leunissen also seems to offer, perhaps unintentionally, some eggheady advice on whether women should be on the front lines. “In light of the physical dangers and reproductive risks involved,” he says, “participating in intergroup aggression might not generally be a viable reproductive strategy for women.” Translation: not if they want to have kids.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: March 11

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. Special collaborative courts focus on rehabilitating troubled veterans. They’re working.

By Spencer Michels at PBS Newshour

2. PayPal runs a dead-simple microlending program that helps small businesses grow.

By Michelle Goodman in Entrepreneur

3. To make voters care, a radio station in L.A. picked a prototype non-voter and built their election coverage around him.

By Melody Kramer at Poynter.org

4. Can the mining industry become a responsible, reliable partner for local communities and the environment?

By Andrea Mustain in Kellogg Insight

5. Robert Mugabe is 91 years old. The world should prepare for a succession crisis in Zimbabwe.

By Helia Ighani at the Council on Foreign Relations

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Innovation

Five Best Ideas of the Day: February 24

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

1. For some returning from war, a ‘G.I. bill for farming’ eases the transition home.

By Abby Wendle at Harvest Public Media

2. In Egypt, a class project to fight sexual harassment has grown into a campus-wide movement encouraging women to “Speak Up.”

By Ahmed Fouad in Al-Monitor

3. Your kid’s school is missing the tech revolution, and it’s all your fault.

By Jason Tanz in Wired

4. Community courts focus on rehabilitation and compassion for non-violent offenders.

By Henry Gass in the Christian Science Monitor

5. A new ‘Uber for packages’ service is partnering with Waffle House to build a network of delivery points around the south.

By Amar Toor in the Verge

The Aspen Institute is an educational and policy studies organization based in Washington, D.C.

TIME Ideas hosts the world's leading voices, providing commentary and expertise on the most compelling events in news, society, and culture. We welcome outside contributions. To submit a piece, email ideas@time.com.

TIME Oscars

These Four Policy Issues Got Our Attention at the Oscars

Hollywood is never shy about sharing its thoughts on politics, especially on Oscar night. But after the acceptance speeches fade, what happens next? Here’s a look at the status of several issues raised at the Academy Awards ceremony Sunday night.

Patricia Arquette, “Boyhood,” on Equal Pay

The issue: The Pew Research Center estimates that women earn 84 percent of what men earn, though the gender pay gap has narrowed since the 1980s. This is the rare issue that also affects Hollywood. The 10 highest-paid actors were paid $419 million in 2013 while their female counterparts earned $226 million, barely half as much.

What Arquette said: “To every woman who gave birth to every taxpayer and citizen of this nation, we have fought for everybody else’s equal rights. It’s our time to have wage equality once and for all and equal rights for women in the United States of America.”

The outlook: Legislation introduced last year would have made it illegal for companies to retaliate against employees who share how much they make, a key step in ensuring men and women are paid equally. It failed to pass the Senate and is dead in the current Republican Congress. Some states, such as Vermont, are tackling the issue, however.

Common and John Legend, “Selma,” on Racial Justice in the U.S.

The issue: Racial disparities persist decades after the events depicted in Selma. In their acceptance speech, singers John Legend and Common highlighted two: the high rate of incarceration among black men and changes in voting rights laws, such as requirements that voters show government ID at polling stations.

What Legend said: “We know that the Voting Rights Act that they fought for 50 years ago is being compromised right now in this country today. We know that right now, the struggle for freedom and justice is real. We live in the most incarcerated country in the world. There are more black men under correctional control today then were under slavery in 1850.”

The outlook: Protests over how police have handled black male suspects have given the cause momentum. The Eric Garner case helped inspire New York City officials to begin to rethink their approach to policing. Activists on the left and right are coming together to push for reforms to the criminal justice system, though voting rights legislation isn’t going anywhere in Congress.

Alejandro Gonzalez Iñarritu, “Birdman,” on Immigration Reform

The issue: Immigration reform has been a hot button political issue for years. Millions of undocumented immigrants live in the U.S. and there’s widespread disagreement about how they should be addressed.

What Iñarritu said: “I want to dedicate this award for my fellow Mexicans, the ones who live in Mexico. I pray that we can build the government that we deserve. And the ones living in this country who are part of the latest generation of immigrants in this country, I just pray that they can be treated with the same dignity and respect of the ones who come before and built this incredible nation.”

The outlook: Immigration reform is a thorny issue, and legislators in Washington repeatedly have had trouble finding common ground. President Obama took action on his own, taking executive actions providing temporary legal status to millions of immigrants. Still, those actions remain contested in court and Congress isn’t likely to do much on this issue.

Ellen Goosenberg Kent and Dana Perry, “Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1,” on Veteran Suicide

The issue: Twenty-two veterans commit suicide everyday — a rate that more than double the rate in the general population. While the Veterans Affairs Department provides mental health services, mental health experts say many the veteran culture makes many hesitant to take advantage of the resources.

What Kent said: “This immense and incredible honor goes to the veterans and their families who are brave enough to ask for help.” What Perry said: “I want to dedicate this to my son Evan Perry, we lost him to suicide, we should talk about suicide out loud.”

The outlook: President Obama recently signed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, which creates an outreach system for veterans suffering from mental health issues and provides financial incentives to encourage psychiatric doctors to treat veterans. The law is a good start, but activists working to stem suicide say the issue requires more attention.

TIME Mental Health/Psychology

This Bill Could Help Veterans With Mental Health

Military uniform jacket
Getty Images

22 veterans commit suicide each day

Marine Clay Hunt received a hero’s welcome when he returned home to Texas after serving as a sniper in Afghanistan and Iraq. Struggling with a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, the Purple Heart-winner became a widely-recognized advocate for veterans. In 2011, two years after leaving the Marines, the 28-year-old became one of the 8,000 veterans who commit suicide every year.

Earlier this week, four years after Hunt’s suicide, the United States Senate unanimously passed the Clay Hunt Suicide Prevention for American Veterans Act, and President Barack Obama will likely sign it into law. Among other things, the new law would create a comprehensive outreach program to address veterans’ mental health and provide financial incentives to psychiatric doctors who work with veterans.

Read more: Why Can’t the Army Win the War on Suicide?

“While we are a little bittersweet, because it is too late for our son Clay, we are thankful knowing that this bill will save many lives,” said Clay Hunt’s mother, Susan Selke, in a statement.

The recently passed bill provides a good starting point to help an at-risk population, but it’s a small step forward in addressing a longtime problem that has only been growing in severity, experts say. Veteran suicide claims the lives of 22 veterans each day. At around 30 suicides per 100,000 veterans, the suicide rate is more than double the rate for the general population.

The reasons for the high suicide rates are not entirely clear, but researchers say that military life exposes soldiers to a series of risk factors that place them at a heightened suicide risk, even though someone in the military is usually healthier physically than someone in the general population.

“Going into the military isn’t going to increase your risk of suicide,” says Martha Bruce, professor of sociology in psychiatry at Cornell University. “It’s the experiences either during [service], or in the transition, or after.”

First and foremost, combat exposes soldiers to traumatic life and death situations, and depression and PTSD may result. Others soldiers return with brain injuries. All of these ailments have been linked to increased risk of suicide.

Read more: Killed in Action, Far From the Battlefield

Experts point out that even those who return from service mentally healthy and without injury issue face a tough life transition when they return home. Many cannot find immediate employment and struggle to adapt to the culture of civilian life more broadly. Only 72% of veterans of the last decade’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were employed in 2013, according to government statistics. Struggling to adjust, some turn to alcohol, which is another risk factor for suicide. One in four veterans exposed to heavy combat binge drinks at least once a week, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.

Shaped by the what Bruce calls the “self-reliant culture” of the military, veterans may be reluctant to seek help even when they recognize that they have a problem. “Culture plays a big role when it comes to not necessarily who gets distressed, but what people do in response to that,” says Christine Moutier, chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “The culture in the military and, certainly with veterans, is a very stoic one traditionally.”

An Air Force anti-suicide program initiated more than a decade ago aimed to tackle the cultural issue by making service members feel comfortable reporting their conditions, Moutier says. And that’s a big part of what the recently passed Clay Hunt Act seeks to do. Peer support counselors will work with veterans in local communities to make addressing mental health issue feel more culturally acceptable.

Read more: Dangerous Cases: Crime and Treatment

“You have to go to where people are, both in physical location as well as in their mindset,” Moutier says.

Suicide researchers say the bill is a step in the right direction, but they also acknowledge that the complexity of the issue makes it difficult to know what the legislation’s long-term effect will be.

“There isn’t a panacea that’s going to reverse the trend,” says Mark Kaplan, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles. “Suicide is one of the most complex public health problems out there.”

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