National Geographic in its February cover story takes readers through a visually striking, two-part reflection series about veterans coping with their own war beyond the battlefields.

"Sometimes you find yourself saying, I wish ... I would have lost a body part, so people will see — so they'll get it," says Army First Sgt. David Griego in "Revealing the Trauma of War."

The first part of the series — photography and audio by Lynn Johnson — follows veterans in an art therapy program at Walter Reed Medical Center who paint masks to help them cope with daily struggles.

"I think this is what started me kind of opening up and talking about stuff and actually trying to get better," says Staff Sgt. Perry Hopman of the painting therapy program.

"The Invisible War on the Brain" then opens part II of the series with an inside look of how thousands of Iraq and Afghanistan service members suffer physically and emotionally from traumatic brain injuries.

The chapter's leading photo features Marine Cpl. Burness Britt — recently treated for TBI and post traumatic stress disorder — being medevaced out of Afghanistan in 2011 following an IED blast.

Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus took the picture — the one photo out of hundreds she said she couldn't get out of her mind.

Niedringhaus found Britt six months later; the two formed a bond when Niedringhaus returned a piece of wheat she plucked off his shrapnel-torn shirt that day in the helicopter.


In this June 4, 2011, photo taken by AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus, injured Marine Cpl. Burness Britt reacts after being lifted onto a medevac helicopter from the Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off," Charlie Company, 1-214 Aviation Regiment.
Photo Credit: Anja Niedringhaus/The Associated Press
Niedringhaus was killed in April when an Afghan police officer opened fire on her car.

View some images from the powerful series, written by Caroline Alexander, below:

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