Michael Stokes, a Los Angeles-based fitness photographer, has captured a stunning photo series featuring 14 veterans of U.S. military units involved in the Gulf War, Iraq War and war in Afghanistan. Instead of depicting the former soldiers as sorrowful casualties of war, Stokes aims to present them as sexy, confident and powerful.
Stokes' related Kickstarter project, which aims to fund "two large-scale, coffee table, art books" has well surpassed its original goal of $48,250 to reach short of $280,000. The book featuring the veterans is titled Always Loyal and shows how while the pictured service members may have lost limbs or more, they have persevered on to maintain their physiques, pride and commitment to their country.
"The vast majority of these veterans have lost one or multiple limbs from IED attacks," Stokes wrote on the Kickstarter page.
Some samples of Stokes' photography, reposted with his permission, can be seen below:
According to Stokes, the veterans pictured in the project don't need anyone's pity. The aim of the project is to turn the narrative that the amputees are mournful on its head.
"Some people will say to me, 'Oh, this is really helpful to their self-esteem,' or, 'You're making them feel like men again,'" he told MTV News. "And I hear all these types of comments and the response I have to that is that these guys have come to me very healed and ready to take the world on. I'm not giving them back their confidence. They already have it."