Arin Yoon is a Korean American documentary photographer, visual artist, and arts educator based in the greater Kansas City area. Her work focuses on the military, families, and women and issues of representation and identity. Arin's...
Teo holds a doll that has a photo of John inserted in a sleeve, while Mila takes care of her stuffed animal.
PHOTOGRAPH BY ARIN YOON
Happy Anniversary from Afghanistan (2010-Present)
John doesn't talk much about his combat experiences with me. I don't know if he doesn't want to relive it or doesn't want me to experience them, too. I piece together what it must have been like for him by looking through his photos. I learn his story without him having to talk about it. On our anniversary, he holds up a sign from Jalalabad. I send him a photo of my dinner without him. We start to feel a little more connected.
I met John through mutual friends in 2011, shortly after he returned from a combat deployment in Afghanistan. John, who was his unit's unofficial photographer, took this photo of Private First Class Michalik taking in the view in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
Military families move to new installations every two or three years. Often, spouses raise children alone during deployments. Here, military children climb onto a battle tank on Family Range Day in Fort Stewart, Georgia.
A lightning strike hits the training area in Fort Irwin, California. When I first moved into John's apartment I photographed soldiers doing early morning physical training and military vehicles rumbling by.
LEFT: Jiyeong Laue and her daughter, Serenity, pose in their backyard in Fort Irwin, California. Meeting other military spouses made me realize how much the war affected the families of service members. PHOTOGRAPH BY ARIN YOON
RIGHT: Armored personnel carriers protect a tactical planning, command and control post at the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California. Moving from a vibrant arts community to a super militarized environment was a shock for me. PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN PRINCIPE
Terry Twitchel, a first sergeant in John's unit, prepares meat for a special barbecue given to soldiers prior to major combat operations. The sign in the background reads "DO NOT BURN ACU'S" (Army Combat Uniforms). Soldiers would occasionally burn the uniforms, releasing toxic chemicals at the forward operating base in Kunduz, Afghanistan.
LEFT: Months after John deployed again in 2015, he celebrated Teo’s first birthday, a milestone in Korean culture, on FaceTime with us. SCREENSHOT BY ARIN YOON
RIGHT: In 2015, John celebrated our anniversary with a message from Jalalabad, Afghanistan, during his first deployment as a husband and father. While he was away, I moved from Fort Leavenworth into my mom’s house. I soon realized I’d formed a deep bond to the military community, who truly understood what I was going through. PHOTOGRAPH COURTESY JOHN PRINCIPE
LEFT: Moving trucks and U-Hauls line the streets of Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Within a few weeks, everyone on this block had moved to a new duty station.
RIGHT: Teo and Mila are now old enough to realize when they have to leave their friends, or if their friends are moving away. Here, our neighbor, Alexandria, waves goodbye to her friends as her family drives away to a new duty station.
John poses for portrait in 2011, a few months after a combat deployment to Afghanistan. When I first met John, he had nightmares. He’d shout things like “release the helicopters” and “we have to find an escape route.”
LEFT: Military spouse Dana Abella opens the blinds as her son, Nathan Abella, plays for the last time in their home in Fort Leavenworth, Kansas. Each move means making a new set of friends for both parents and kids. PHOTOGRAPH BY ARIN YOON
RIGHT: Soldiers at Fort Irwin practice conducting a clearing operation in an urban environment. Fort Irwin is the National Training Center for U.S. Army units before they deploy. PHOTOGRAPH BY JOHN PRINCIPE
National Geographic: A military spouse reflects on life over two decades of war and what comes next. In the dark about life as a military spouse, a photographer began documenting what it means to go to war.