There is no act of valor greater than dying on the battlefield for your country. The US army published photographs captured by Specialist Hilda Clayton, 22, a combat photographer, just before she and four others lost their lives to the accidental blast. Other victims of the blast were an Afghan military photographer she was training and three Afghan National Army soldiers.
Clayton was documenting a live-fire exercise in Afghanistan conducted jointly by the US and Afghan soldiers when, without warning, a mortar blew up in front of her accidentally. Although this incident took place in July 2013, it was not until this year that the photographs were released by the US military as, understandably, they had to be approved by Hilda’s family before they could be published in the Army’s Military Review Journal.
According to the Army Times, it was the first time an army combat specialist died in Afghanistan during documentation and production. Clayton was a member of the 55th Signal Company in Fort Meade, Maryland. Her unit has commemorated her contribution to the US army by adopting Hilda I Clayton Best Combat Camera Competition as the new name for its combat photography award.
The impact of Clayton’s pictures, I think, is the display of partnership between the US and Afghan forces to fight a common enemy and ensure that the nation returns to stability. When the presence of the US army in Afghanistan is mentioned, rarely would observers think that the two factions are doing anything together, but Clayton’s dizzying photograph of her final moments says otherwise. The review that followed the picture read:
“Not only did Clayton help document activities aimed at shaping and strengthening the partnership but she also shared in the risk by participating in the effort. Clayton’s death symbolizes how female soldiers are increasingly exposed to hazardous situations in training and in combat on par with their male counterparts.”
Source: National Post
The photographs also showed Clayton’s willingness to take up any challenge considering that she was deployed almost immediately after graduating from Defense Information School in July 2012. In July 2013, Clayton was at a live-fire training exercise in Laghman Province in north eastern Afghanistan taking pictures of a mortar validation exercise before the sudden accident. Clayton will forever be remembered for her bravery in the line of danger.