It’s no simple thing to transition back to civilian life from the military.
Life at home can seem so far removed from the realities of serving in the armed forces — and yet, neither area is untouched by the other.
Reflecting this layered existence is the work of Arizona State University online student Devin Mitchell.
For his Veteran Vision Project, Mitchell photographs two images of veterans — one, in uniform, reflected in a mirror; the other, how they choose to portray themselves beyond their military identity — and merges them into one photograph, shot in the subject’s home.
Mitchell, a sociology student in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences, strives to provide veterans a voice about their lives. He recently traveled from his home in Los Angeles to photograph a number of ASU veterans; those photos will be displayed on all four campuses as part of the university’s Salute to Service.
Watch him at work in the video below, and then scroll down to explore the photos he produced after his ASU visit in September.
We’ve included condensed captions with Mitchell's photos; to read the full-length story that goes with each, visit his Veteran Vision Project Facebook page.
Mitchell’s ASU photographs will be on display during Salute to Service at all four campuses:
- Downtown Phoenix: 2-4 p.m. Oct. 28 (Student Center at the Post Office). Mitchell will speak at 3 p.m.
- Polytechnic: Nov. 2-6 (Student Union)
- Tempe: 5-7 p.m. Oct. 29 (Tailgate at Old Main), Nov. 2-6 (Student Services Building)
- West: 9 a.m. to noon Nov. 3 (University Center Building), 3-5 p.m. Nov. 4 (Changemaker Central). Mitchell will speak at 3 p.m.
Find more about the project at veteranvisionproject.com.
Trinh and Thomas Tran:
My family never understood why I joined the U.S. Army. They thought that all their sacrifices are wasted because they wanted me to go to college like everyone else did. —Trinh Tran
I was on Personal Security Detail. I got to experience a lot during my deployment, met with many local leaders and police chiefs, and even got to meet John McCain. —Thomas TranDevin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Logan Tucker: When I saw the (World Trade Center) towers fall when I was 6 years old, I was scared, worried, confused and really pissed off. As soon I was 18, I enlisted into the Marine Corps as a 3521 Motor T Mechanic. The plan now is staying in for 20 years.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Rebeccah Mitchell: Growing up the daughter of two retired Marines, when I decided to join the military in 2005, the Corps was the natural choice. I met my husband, Joel, in 2007, and we married in 2012. In 2013, we turned our sights to serving our fellow veterans.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Phylicia Grant: I graduated from high school in 2006, and I enlisted into the Navy in March 2007, primarily because I could not receive financial aid for the City College of New York’s B.S./M.D. program. I was ready to be something more than what I was being offered. I am proud to acknowledge that joining the military is one of the best decisions that I made for myself.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Mark Richards: All my life, I had a passionate dream to serve my country in the military. Unfortunately, I was small and unhealthy as a child. People would tell me all the reasons why I could not or should not serve. Eventually, I started to believe that I would never be a soldier. But no matter how far I pushed that dream down inside, I could still always feel it burning there.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Paul Clevenger: Coming from small town Prescott, Arizona, I joined the Marine Corps in 2007. In 2010 I transferred to the 1st Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion and shortly after deployed with to Garmsir, Afghanistan. I left the Marine Corps in April 2011 to attend ASU for a double bachelor’s in business with computer information systems and business database analytics.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Kevin Davies: Enlisted in the Marines in 2010 right after high school. I decided that rather than being in the infantry and have nothing to do for four years, I would go to college and come back as an officer. I'm currently double majoring at ASU in finance and marketing in Barrett, The Honors College while working two jobs.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Jesse Orozco: I joined the military straight out of high school. I didn’t want to go to college and acquire a huge debt of student loans. I also didn’t want to work at Kmart for the rest of my life. So the only other logical choice I had was to join the military. In the service I was known as Orozco. To my family and friends I am known as Jesse. At home I am known as daddy and babe.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Kristi Garboushian: Over the last 24 years as a veteran ... I’ve remarked many times that making the decision to join the military was the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I’m grateful for the lessons I’ve learned from my experiences in the military and from the wonderful people with whom I’ve worked over the years. The support of my family and friends has been the greatest blessing.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Joanna Sweatt: In 1997, I was determined to become a Marine. The promises my recruiter told me — I then translated and went and sold those same ideas to my young 19-year-old hubby: the idea of a new life — one where we would get to leave Arizona, have some adventure and become financially secure but that never happened.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
John Luebke: I decided to graduate high school a semester early so that I could join the United States Marine Corps as an infantryman in order to get into the fight as quick as possible. I gave up my position on the varsity baseball team, which was the toughest decision for me to make. But I wanted to be a Marine and serve so badly, that it just couldn't wait.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Jorge Arroyo: This is uncomfortable. Every time I am asked to write about myself I don’t know what to say because I’m still figuring a lot of things out. Some things I have figured out, like learning from people and to always have faith. When I left Puerto Rico I never thought I would end up here, like this. I rather like it.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Breanna Adams: I knew when I was 10 years old I was meant to be in the military. I couldn’t wait to serve my country. The night I was sexually assaulted everything changed. But ... I went through every painful and emotional step to do my part to ensure that the military would do the honorable thing and file my case.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Jason Hodgson: I live my life according to spiritual standards and look at life through a spiritual perspective. Life was pretty easy and uncomplicated before Iraq (Operation Iraqi Freedom, 2005-06); afterward, life seemed to transform into a completely different monster. But through the struggles, I refuse to give up or give in.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
James Vujs: The one thing that would define me is my love of sports and being a part of something bigger than the individual. After five years in the Army, it was a family decision to leave and pursue new goals. My love of sports never wavered.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Christopher Castillo: My decision to join the United States Army was a result of showing gratitude toward a country that had provided so many opportunities for my family and people alike who were willing to work hard for a better life.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Alvaro Hernandez: I was the youngest of 15 children, and my parents rarely spoke about the opportunity for me to attend college. Growing up in a small farming community in the Central Valley of California, I watched my father work low-wage seasonal farm jobs while my mother took care of our family. They instilled a tireless work ethic in me and a desire to help others.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Brittany Herbert: I believe that my life would have turned out much differently had I not joined the Air Force. Everything I learned and each experience during my military service was instrumental in shaping me into the person I am today.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Cheryl Rinehart: Unpacking combat (and non-combat military) experiences takes time, patience and the right audience. The process is not linear nor a one-size-fits-all approach. I am portrayed with my 5-year-old daughter, who was born after I left active duty. Devin's project provided the opportunity to connect with my daughter — open up a dialogue — about my military service.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Gabriel McInnis: I was worried that the Marine Corps was going to change me, but now looking back, I would be worried about my life if it hadn’t. I’ve done a lot for the Marine Corps, but I don’t think I’ll ever be able to return the favor for what it’s done for me.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Cory Kamerschak: When I first enlisted in 2009 I really loved being in the Air Force and was optimistic about making it a career. However, as time went on, life happens and ultimately I decided to separate in 2015. At the end of the day I can reflect back on my career and know that I did everything that the Air Force asked of me and I did it to the best of my ability.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Don Willoughby: Having served in the U.S. Air Force for 23 years in aviation maintenance, I decided to go back to school and finish my degree in air transportation management. I enrolled in the TRIO Veterans Upward Bound program at Arizona State University in order to brush up on my math and writing skills.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Anthony Stockton: After my freshman year at ASU, I had over $30,000 in student loans. I knew that I couldn't afford to stay at ASU, so that is when I made the decision to join the United States Army Reserves. Three years and one deployment later, I am now a sergeant in the Reserves, proudly serving my country.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
James Gibbs: In addition to my service for country and preserving life through life safety improvement initiatives as fire marshal, I enjoy serving and supporting God, family, friends and many non-profit organizations (internationally, nationally and locally) as well as traveling and seeing the beauty in creation and different cultures.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project
Donald Graap: I deployed for the invasion of Iraq in January 2003 with Combat Service Support Company 117. I got out of the Marine Corps on Aug. 8, 2005. Since I have been out, I have at times struggled with PTSD, which in some cases got me in trouble legally. Thank God for friends that always have your back because I have friends that have looked out for me after the military.Devin Mitchell/Veteran Vision Project