I thought the Vietnam war was an

utter, unmitigated disaster, so it

was very hard for me to say anything

good about it.

–George McGovern

“Burst of Joy” is a poignant photograph that depicts, on the surface, the joy of a hero’s welcome. Stirm’s back is to the camera, allowing him to serve as the epitome of the resilient soldier who made his way home. This particular reunion, however, was not as joyous or welcoming as the photograph would lead you to believe. Stirm’s wife, Loretta Stirm, is seen running toward her husband, a big smile on her face. Yet only days before Stirm was rescued and brought home, Loretta wrote him a letter ending their marriage. Although the photograph may symbolise the heartwarming concept that military families could start over and heal after the Vietnam war, this was far from true for the Stirm family.