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In the center of Kyiv there’s a small section of lawn pierced with miniature flags, each with a name hand-written on it. They’re mostly Ukrainian, of course, the light blue haunting in their thousands, but there are Polish, Belarussian, British, and American flags appearing as impurities. When I first arrived in Ukraine 6 days after the invasion, American veterans were in the Polish airports, aimless in most ways, dissatisfied by the wars America had given them in Iraq, Afghanistan, and Syria. They headed toward fire as members of the International Legion, private militia groups, and formal Ukrainian units. Edward Wilton went all the way to his death, like 34 other killed fighting so far, finding, I hope, in Ukraine’s defense, something worth dying for.  © 2023 Benjamin Busch

Outside Lviv is the Lychakiv Cemetery. It’s swollen with war dead, spilling beyond its old walls into the Field of Mars as quickly as men can dig new graves. Hundreds of national and military flags sway, the space feeling like it’s made of shredded cloth. Each burial has a raised wooden box above it for flowers and candles, portraits of the fallen tacked to temporary crosses. What I found so powerful was their informality, just family photos from dressers and bedrooms. They were rarely presented as soldiers, just people who had been loved, often shown with their pets. This soldier had something in his eyes that spoke to me, a young seriousness matched by his Doberman.  © 2023 Benjamin Busch

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