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Outside the Frame: Children on 9/11, Marines 10 years later

AP photographer Brennan Linsley has been on an embed with U.S. Marines in Afghanistan for the past several weeks. As part of his assignment, Brennan made a series of portraits of young soldiers who were children when the attack of 9/11 occurred. The soldiers talked to Linsley and AP reporter Christopher Torchia about their experiences.

Brennan Linsley / AP

In this Sunday, Aug. 28, 2011 photo, U.S. Marine Infantryman Lance Cpl. Austin Jordan poses for a portrait at his small patrol base, in Helmand province, Afghanistan. "I was in fourth grade during 9-11," recalls Jordan. "The biggest thing I remember about it was how sad my family was. I was a little too young to understand the magnitude of what happened, but I definitely noticed how it changed pretty much everyone in America. I remember how everyone was brought together. And as I grew up, I noticed that just kind of went away, people forgot about it. And I guess that kind of pissed me off, made me want to join the Marines."

Linsley writes:
As a photojournalist, I had never before considered portraiture. After delving into the genre while on assignment in Greenland, I realized the faces of the people I meet seem to say more than I could using traditional photojournalism. I decided to experiment more with portraits while on assignment in Afghanistan. People's faces can speak volumes.

PATROL BASE 302, Afghanistan — The Marines I'm photographing seem so grown up when they are firing weapons at war. But talking to them at rest, I'm reminded how young and idealistic they really are. They were mere children 10 years ago, on Sept. 11, 2001, the day the war they are now fighting began.
I thought I would see if I could draw out some meaning from their faces, photographed simply, juxtaposed with their basic memories of that day ten years ago, and see where it took me.
I enjoy being present when actual news is happening in front of my camera, and just shooting it "straight." The same can be said here: I tried, basically, to be a camera. The editing process was in a way the most creative part. I picked whatever frame I responded to the most.
During one interview, with Lance Cpl. Christian Seedorf, a firefight broke out and all the guys ran to their fighting positions. Later, we resumed talking. It was funny and scary at the same time. Here I am talking to this kid about his memories of being in middle-school on 9/11, and all of a sudden Taliban fighters open fire on the base from a few different directions. Later, after these young men had repelled or killed their attackers, we all got back together and kept talking.
I hope these portraits allow some readers to stop and get to know these guys a bit -- to consider them as individuals, as opposed to anonymous visual clichés or generic human fabric of foreign policy.

Brennan Linsley / AP

U.S. Marine Infantryman Lance Cpl. Steven Williams, 20, from Washington, poses for a portrait at his small patrol base, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. Williams, on his memory of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack: "I was in seventh grade, and we had a prayer with my football team, because we had family and friends over there." Williams, on why he joined the Marines: "I joined the Marines to better myself, to get away from what I was doing. It was just out of the blue. Just walked in one day (to the recruiting station). Couldn't find a job, it was hard. Hard living. So I walked in 2009, and left for Boot Camp in 2010."

Brennan Linsley / AP

In this Sept. 5, 2011 photo, U.S. Marine Infantryman Lance Cpl. Bradley Billedeaux, 20, of Paradise, Calif., poses for a portrait at his small patrol base, in Helmand province, southern Afghanistan. Billedeaux, on his memory of the Sept. 11, 2001 attack: "I was in fifth grade at the time, I remember we were in class when they told us about it. I was pretty young back then, but it was still a shock to everyone, and I had some buddies that had, their brother was a firefighter, I remember that, and he was killed in that." Billedeaux, on why he joined the Marines: "It's just something I've always wanted to do. I've had family history in the military. Both my great-grandpas were in World War II, one was a machine-gunner, and one was a navigator. My uncle was in Desert Storm as a Marine, so a little bit of family going back in the military."