Student Life

Soldier vs. Civilian

The Badger Veteran Photo Project reveals the people behind the uniform.

Side-by-side images of air force F-16 crew chief Abigail Lindsay overseas in uniform, and in civilian clothes posing with her dog.

Abigail Lindsay ’23 was an air force F-16 crew chief deployed to Afghanistan and Saudi Arabia.

Veterans are both heroes and regular human beings. Everybody knows that, of course, but UW–Madison’s Badger Veteran Photo Project helps you see it and feel it.

University Veteran Services reached out to service members who’ve attended the UW with a request: submit one photo of yourself in uniform and one out of uniform. That simple concept yielded a psychologically rich collection of images.

Side-by-side images of couple Rachel and Adam Landsee in uniform and in civilian clothes.

Rachel ’00 and Adam Landsee ’01 both served two tours of Operation Iraqi Freedom.

Side-by-side images of Justin Cape in civilian clothes with his family, and in his Air Force dress blues.

Justin Cape MSx’24 plans to teach after retiring from the air force.

Side-by-side images of Leah Henning in uniform, and in civilian clothes.

Leah Henning x’24 did four years of active duty and plans to be a nurse.

In uniform, the veterans train for combat, shoulder their weapons, and serve far from home, with danger lurking around the edges of the photographic frame. Out of uniform, they look like anybody else, hugging their dogs, cradling their babies, and dressing in Badger gear.

The contrast creates an emotional response in the viewer: admiration for these ordinary people tasked with extraordinary responsibility.

For the older veterans, the paired images often produce a time-lapse effect. With Stephen Greger ’71, for example, we see a somber, blurry, black-and-white photo from the Vietnam War era next to a more recent color snapshot of Greger in a happy mood. In the accompanying text, he writes, “During my UW junior year, I was selected as ‘Number ONE’ in the December 1969 Vietnam-era draft lottery. I knew military service was in my future upon graduation. Wanting to be in control of that future, I enlisted in the air force shortly before graduation in 1971.”

That bit of information creates another emotional response in the viewer: relief that Greger survived into the 21st century.

Side-by-side images of Stephen Greger in uniform, and in civilian clothes.

After his military service, Stephen Greger ’71 worked in the insurance industry for 35 years.

Published in the Summer 2023 issue


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