Benefit To Raise Money For Family Of Slain Iraqi Interpreter

Benefit To Raise Money For Family Of Slain Iraqi Interpreter »Play Video
OLYMPIA - Jeff DeLaCruz served in the Army Reserves in a civil affairs detachment during Operation Iraqi Freedom.

After and before battles and firefights his job was to work with Iraqi civilians to help them rebuild or to move them out of harm's way.

As a soldier he was always armed with a rifle but he also took his own personal camera.

"I just walked around with a camera like every other soldier and just photographed my experience," said DeLaCruz.

The images he developed in an Olympia darkroom were sometimes funny: an American soldier celebrating a birthday at Baghdad International Airport while wearing a balloon birthday hat.

The images, as expected, were also sometimes haunting: bullet-riddled walls and in one case a heavily bombarded home where the only telltale sign of life was a single shoe someone left behind.

But the image that haunts him most is the glare of a 10-year-old girl. Her family had sought refuge outside a U.S. base.

Because insurgents began using the refugee camp as cover to launch mortar attacks at U.S. troops, DeLaCruz and others in his company had to evict the group of "gypsies" to bulldoze the camp and remove the insurgent threat.

"Her look reminds me of that," he said of the closeup photo that still haunts him. "And every time I see that poster, and every time I see that picture, I feel conflicted again."

When DeLaCruz came home he says he found out his pictures might be needed for something else. Weeks after he returned safely to Olympia he learned that the two Iraqi interpreters he worked closely with and had come to trust as friends had been assassinated.

"They were returning to their homes for a religious holiday when they were stopped in Al Hillah and beheaded. So that really took us all by surprise."

DeLaCruz says he is keeping the interpreters names secret because their families could be targeted next. One of the translators was married with several children. Jeff and his fellow soldiers decided they had to do something to help

So Jeff's pictures, what he calls "A Soldier's View" of the war, are now part of a gallery exhibition. He hopes to use the benefit to raise money for the interpreter's family and start bringing them to safety in the U.S.

"Like they had given so much to us that we should give something back to them that somehow their spirit should live on."

"It becomes more than that," he said of the collection of black and white images. "It becomes personal."

The first benefit showing of "A Soldier's View: A Pictorial Reflection of the War in Iraq" will be at the Worthington Center at St. Martin's College in Lacey Thursday September 15, from 6:30-9:30 p.m. Other showings are planned in the coming months for Seattle and Olympia.

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