Humans of New York decided to profile veterans. The response has been overwhelming.
“He was the nicest guy you can imagine,” Iscol said. “My 22nd birthday was during our officer training course. None of us had slept. We were all starving. We were only getting one ration per day. But Ronnie wanted to give me a memorable birthday. So he put a candle in his brownie and gave it to me. That’s how nice of a guy he was. Ronnie ended up getting killed in Iraq. And if a guy like Ronnie got killed, you can’t help but wonder why you deserve to be alive.”
“I know that many people have strong opinions about America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Stanton wrote. “But as we meet the individuals behind the uniforms, and seek to understand their stories, I’m hoping we can momentarily put those politics aside. This is a great group of people who served and sacrificed at the request of their country. And I’m very thankful that they’ve volunteered to share their stories.”
In an email, Stanton added that the stories of hypervigilance, a common trait in post-traumatic stress cases, were remarkably similar. Many of the interviews ran several hours and covered a number of subjects, ranging from time in combat to how they have integrated back home.
“A majority of my audience is international, and many have strong feelings toward the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan,” Stanton said. “Other people have strong feelings toward the military in general, whether positive or negative. It’s hard to talk about war without bringing those feelings out. But on the whole, I’ve found the comments to be remarkably supportive and civil.”
The veterans include patients with the Headstrong Project, a nonprofit that offers free, confidential treatment for veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan in New York, the San Diego area and Houston and which partnered with Humans of New York for the project. Iscol, its executive director, said that initially, he had concerns about how the veterans would be received by the Humans of New York audience, saying few of them have served, but has been inspired by the response. The posts have been shared thousands of times each.
“Humans of New York represents the best of this city,” said Iscol, who expects the series to wrap up this week. “It’s getting people to walk in someone else’s shoes.”