A New Generation of Kids Learns to Live Like Soldiers - Global Photography

A New Generation of Kids Learns to Live Like Soldiers

Over the past year, photographer Sarah Blesener has been visiting patriotic youth groups around the United States of America. Her aim has been to explore how different combinations of religion, love of country, and military-style training come together in the teaching of “new Americanism,” which Blesener defines as a renewed embrace of the centuries-old theme of American exceptionalism and manifest destiny.

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©Sarah Blesener

“With activities like water gun games, racing, and tug-a-war, this could easily be mistaaken for a YMCA summer camp in Salt Lake City. However, 900 students across Utah are attending a weeklong ‘Patriot Camp,’ focusing on patriotic education and the constitution. At the opening ceremony for the camp, an adult leader led a speech, proclaiming: ‘Always remember, you are soldiers of God. And nobody in the entire history of the world has ever been as free as you are right now.’”

©Sarah Blesener

©Sarah Blesener

Thousands of youth across the United States are choosing to spend their free time at patriotic camps, clubs, and military programs. This past year, she visited nine of these clubs in eleven different states. While these programs are spread out across isolated communities in the United States, around 400,000 American youth are enrolled annually.

©Sarah Blesener

©Sarah Blesener

While not all students end up joining the military or changing their life paths, a strong sense of belonging and purpose, tied together with coming of age and the intense vulnerability of this developmental time period, are core factors in what attracts adolescents to these programs. It is her intent to tap into these vital aspects of youth, while also looking at how a nation instills patriotism and passes down military tradition to new generations.

©Sarah Blesener

You can see more of Blesener's work on her website.


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