Notes From the Road

 Thaw, earl spring, Watertown, New York

Thaw, earl spring, Watertown, New York

2010.03.24 Corpus Christi, Texas: This is the first time I’ve been truly alone in what feels like weeks.  I feel like I’ve been living the life of a ghost.  Groundless, rootless, floating from above, watching everyone else’s life unfold before me.  It’s a strange thing.  Since Afghanistan in July 2009, I haven’t really had a home.  I’ve been crashing and paying rent, uncomfortably in Brooklyn and Watertown, but most of the time I am on the road, traveling across the country to listen to anyone who will speak with me.  It’s been hard, but I’m finding that the families are the ones who understand what I am doing more than anyone else… even more than the guys in the army.  They just seem to get it. 

 A soldier's diary. Watertown, New York

A soldier's diary. Watertown, New York

I have been living in and out of families’ tragedies for the past 3 months, as they happen before my eyes.  In February, I traveled to Dirk Terpstra’s house in Michigan.  Dirk at age 26 killed himself in a family friend’s yard on the night of Feb. 24, 2010.  His friend in the army called him “Terpstra” or simply “Terp”.  I drove from New York to Michigan with the hope that I wouldn’t get a door slammed in my face.  Instead, I was welcomed with open arms

 Dirk's funeral. Winter, Augusta, Michigan.

Dirk's funeral. Winter, Augusta, Michigan.

The day of his funeral, I showed up early to the Terptra household, where Gail and Jay, his mother and step-father live.  Tess and Brandon, his siblings, were there along with Sophie, his best friend’s wife.  I stood by, camera in hand, as his mother took the curlers out of her hair, often brushing the tears from her eyes, and checking on Brandon, Dirk’s brother, who was in the garage chain smoking cigarettes. 

 Winter, Watertown, New York.

Winter, Watertown, New York.

I am consistently heartbroken.  It is taking a toll on me. Today is the first time since I can remember that I’ve been able to sit alone and breathe and cry and think about everything I have seen since Nevada.  It feels good.  It’s a release.  Sitting here, in the Omni hotel café, I feel like I can peel back a layer, and step out of my skin for a while and just be Erin.  I don’t have to be strong when I am alone.  I can be myself.  I can let a lot of things go.  

Erin Trieb

Erin Trieb

Age: 32 // Occupation: Photojournalist, Founder of The Homecoming Project

Journal entry by The Homecoming Project founder, Erin Trieb, as she traveled across the United States to document the  impact of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars on the soldiers returning home. The Homecoming Project  collective is comprised of photography created by over 30 photojournalists displayed alongside art, writing and creative works from military, veteran and military family contributors. The campaign illuminates issues faced by returning service members, veterans, and their communities to further awareness on PTSD and help diminish the stigma associated with military suicide.  Currently, one US veteran dies by suicide roughly every hour.