The editors of Foreign Policy composed this slideshow.
As fewer Americans serve in the armed forces, the difficulty of translating the experience of military service to a wider public becomes increasingly challenging. But sometimes a picture tells a thousand words, as in this selection of winners from the 2011 Military Photographer of the Year competition, which was recently judged at the Defense Information School at Ft. George G. Meade, Maryland. Combat photography began in earnest during the Civil War, when President Abraham Lincoln commissioned Mathew Brady to document the war, eventually leading to an invaluable trove of photographs used by generations of historians. Today, hundreds of U.S. military photographers, videographers, and artists continue to document armed services activities around the world. These photos were chosen from thousands of entries and adhere to the same standards as photojournalism (meaning no posed or electronically manipulated images).