Inside the medevac helicopter in Afghanistan, U.S. Marine Cpl. Burness Britt bleeds profusely from his neck. He and two other Marines have just been hit by shrapnel, with Britt's injuries the most serious. The medevac crew chief clutches one of Britt's blood-covered hands as he is given oxygen. I take hold of the other.
With my free hand, I lift my camera and take some pictures. I squeeze Britt’s hand and he returns the gesture, gripping my palm tighter and tighter until he slips into unconsciousness. His shirt is ripped, but I notice a piece of wheat stuck to it. I pluck it off and tuck it away in the pocket of my body armor.
In my 20 years as a photographer, covering conflicts from Bosnia to Gaza to Iraq to Afghanistan, injured civilians and soldiers have passed through my life many times. None has left a greater impression on me than Britt.
I knew him only for a few minutes in that helicopter, but I believed we would meet again one day, and I hoped to give him that small, special piece of wheat.
As Britt underwent surgeries and painful rehabilitation, I returned to my job with The Associated Press, yet Britt was never far from my mind. I searched for him on the Internet. I called hospitals. I wondered if he remembered me.
A 2011 piece by Anja Niedringhaus on her search for a wounded Marine in Afghanistan. She was killed by an Afghan police officer while reporting in the country earlier today (via Yahoo News)