The Man in the Mirror (Soldiers Magazine, June 2009)
“I was a man without a face.”
Photo caption: Sgt. Robert Bartlett Robert Bartlett stands in front of a bust of Maj. Walter Reed in the lobby of Building 1 (the old hospital), Walter Reed Army Medical Center. He was injured in Iraq during the spring of 2005, when an explosive-formed projectile tore through the Humvee he was riding in and cut his face in half.
First Place in stand-alone photo
U.S. Army Medical Command Journalism Awards 2009
“Had the most impact of these entries. Took some planning to execute. Good photo. Relays pain, sadness.”
On May 20, 2005, a 31-year-old Army scout sniper named Pfc. Robert Bartlett glanced at the mirror placed before him with his right eye, his left eye blinded. Burns covered his face and hands; his bottom lip, an eyelid, five teeth, the front of his nose and part of his jaw-all missing. An explosive-formed projectile tore through the Humvee Bartlett was riding in three weeks earlier in Iraq and cut his face in half, from his temple through his jaw.
I was a man without a face. It’s like the left side didn’t exist anymore. And the drooling every day just grates on you, not to mention (it’s) embarrassing. With every drop of drool it takes away your dignity. It’s almost like the left side of my face melted away. Not being able to blink my eye…every breeze that should’ve been for comfort was painful.
After more than 40 surgeries over the next three and a half years as a patient at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, Bartlett, now a sergeant, reflected on his recovery while awaiting completion of his medical board process.
The 35-year-old Soldier believes there is healing in being honest-first with yourself, then others. You must surrender your pride, false realities (past dreams or hopes no longer attainable) and any distorted image of yourself-then there is freedom. You have to love who you see in the mirror.