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Photography exhibit makes former Iraq soldiers look like beheading victims

With Iraq at risk again from a splinter sect of the group that uses beheadings and videotaped executions to enhance its reputation for brutality, it seems a strange time for a photography exhibit in America to showcase photos of soldiers from just the head up. The soldier's heads look a little too eerily like what one might see before (or in one case after) a beheading by a terrorist organization.

Faces of American soldiers captured by photographer Suzanne Opton show up on billboards first and now in a photography exhibit this summer.

According to a report from the Associated Press via the Record Searchlight on June 24, it has only been two-and-a-half years since American troops were brought home from Iraq, and now Iraq is back in crisis. The danger is the splinter faction formerly part of al Qaida, but now known as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. A group that might take some unusual pleasure in seeing the photographic display thanks in part to the Fort Drum Army base.

Soldiers from Fort Drum who posed for the photos served in recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, according to the backstory shared on the Sikkema Jenkins Co. website, which is holding the exhibit in Gallery 2 through July 18. Soldiers Face reported that the soldiers were "between tours of duty" when they posed for Opton's Soldier photography exhibition.

And the photographer who took the photos is Suzanne Opton, who never intended for the photos to mirror a beheading, but she did seek to portray how war had impacted the soldiers' lives and the lives of their family by presenting an image that had implications of "being shot down," according to Yahoo News.

We all experience strategic moments when we feel most alive. Whether transcendent or horrific, these are the moments that we will always remember. I wanted to look in the face of a young person who had seen something unforgettable," Suzanne Opton said.

With so many American soldiers still in harms way, it is unclear how the exhibition will be received by those who view it, especially anyone who may have a loved one still on foreign soil--or who learned there loved one was "shot down" while serving their country. But in a press release for the exhibit, Gayanne Birkholz, the mother of one of the men featured said, "Viewing these portraits of soldiers causes one to pause and think of the many sacrifices and efforts these men and women have experienced to protect us and defend this great country."

But one woman stopped on the DC Metro and asked her opinion about the billboards showing the same soldier faces now being seen in the photography exhibit had this to say on the YouTube video interview, "I think he looks dead and unhappy, and I don't think that's what a soldier is about. I think being a soldier is about bravery and courage; not that. That's the after fact. I think that's distasteful. And I think if that was my son I would be horrified."

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