7 Striking Portraits of “Unknown Soldiers”

The Unknown Soldier is a collection of images by photographer David Jay, who, in 2012, set out to illustrate the consequences of decisions to go to war through people wounded while serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. “I needed to address an often unseen consequence of our actions,” he tells TIME.

He started out looking for subjects by spending a lot of time meeting people who served at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, and Brooke Army Medical Center in Fort Sam Houston, Texas. But he met most of them through word of mouth, traveling to their homes to photograph their families. “People don’t want to see our men and women looking like this,” says Jay. But he felt it was important to tell their stories.

Above is a glimpse of the collection, portraits of people in the Army who were involved in explosions that left them with burns all over their bodies, including stand-up comedian Bobby Henline, the sole survivor of a roadside bombing in Iraq and subject of the TIME documentary “Healing Bobby.”

Overall, Jay was touched by the openness of his subjects, who at times appeared “stoic” in front of the camera. “It takes a very courageous person to reveal themselves in that way,” he says. “It is not how a man or woman wants to be seen. However courageous they were on the battlefield, I give them a lot more for just standing in front of me, sitting in front of me, and allowing me to take their picture, when they’re very exposed in every possible way.”

The Unknown Soldier exhibition is expected to be on display in spring 2015.

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