CAMP LEATHERNECK, Helmand province, Afghanistan -- Photographs can change a person’s perspective and see the world in a different way. They link the photographer to the person seeing the photo, allowing the viewer to catch a glimpse of what it was like to be there.
Danville, Va., native 1st Lt. Mark S. Silvers uses his photography skills to record his experiences as a deployed Marine in Afghanistan.
Working as the aide-de-camp for the commanding general of 2nd Marine Division (Forward), Brig. Gen. Lewis A. Craparotta, keeps the 26-year-old busy. He plans, coordinates and executes visits for the general throughout the more than 23,000 square miles of battle space the unit covers. Silvers is also responsible for assisting the general with staying on schedule to meet the many demands on his time. It’s a job that requires many hours of planning and providing support each day.
Luckily for him, he’s been able to find an escape from the stresses of work through a bit of light reading and photography, taking and editing photos while off duty. Silvers said photography has always been his passion.
“There’s pretty much two things I do out here off of work: read and mess with the photos I take,” said Silvers. “It’s given me an escape out here on deployment.”
Silvers takes many of his photos while he’s out with Craparotta, a native of South Windsor, Conn., touring the battle space. He admitted his favorites are the photos he said he’s made his own.
“I think when you take a photo, it’s okay to play around with them as much as you want,” he said. “I like to take the photos I shoot and edit them to where they become what I pictured that very moment. I want people to see what I felt and saw.”
The blonde-haired, blue-eyed Marine has been on more than 40 battlefield trips throughout Helmand and Nimroz provinces, which has allowed him to take hundreds of photos. He’s ridden on several types of helicopters, to include CH-53E Super Stallions, UH-1Y Hueys, and MV-22 Ospreys, to get to his destinations.
Silvers said riding in these aircrafts has made for very interesting photos and reminds him of his goal of someday becoming a pilot. He was originally supposed to become a Marine Corps pilot, but decided to become a tank officer instead when the opportunity presented itself.
The former company commander with 2nd Tank Battalion, 2nd Marine Division, was then offered his current billet as the aide-de-camp after his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2010. He admitted he was a bit skeptical about the position at first, but is glad he took it, explaining the experience has helped him excel both as a leader and a person.
“I’m glad I did it because I get to see a whole new side of the Marine Corps many don’t get the opportunity to witness,” added Silvers. “It’s been a great experience so far and will help me (in the future) when I leave the Marine Corps to pursue other goals.”
One influence in Silvers’ life knows his ambitious mentality is one of his best qualities and will carry him to even greater heights.
“Mark understands that the harder he works, the luckier he gets!” said his mother, Jo Silvers. “Whether he is trying to decide which camera to buy, or which opportunity to explore, he always does the due diligence. He has a very positive attitude, doesn't complain, and sees life as an adventure, with many exciting choices. He is a great leader, and really gets satisfaction from helping others.”
The young officer’s desire to help others is now materializing in one of his current endeavors to help some of his fellow brothers in arms with what he is calling the “Warrior Hike.” He is working with a friend and fellow Marine to plan a hike along 2,178 miles of the Appalachian Trail to benefit wounded veterans.
“Any parent is proud to see their child grow up accepting great responsibilities and making meaningful contributions to society,” said Jo. “Mark had many choices, but he chose to become a Marine and serve his country. This was a little unsettling for me at first. I realized this was his choice, and it has been an amazing education and rewarding challenge for him.”