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The show doesn’t put a political spin on the images, but tries hard to counter military stereotypes with an image of diversity. Among the earliest photographs are Civil War-era portraits of former slaves who were among 180,000 blacks who fought for their freedom. A later World War II print shows the Navajo Indians who transmitted radio messages in their native language, a code the Japanese could not break.

Women also get their due. In the Civil War section, a surprising group photograph of a Union Army female volunteer unit notes how the rifle-toting soldiers came from different social backgrounds, “from debutante to prostitute.”

The last image in the exhibit records the homecoming of a female soldier who served 15 months in Iraq. She is shown bonding with her baby nephew, presumably for the first time. It’s a jubilant image that ends the exhibit on an uplifting note but masks the bitter truth of war.

WHAT: “The American Soldier: A Photographic Tribute to Soldiers and Marines From the Civil War to the War in Iraq

WHERE: Women in Military Service for America Memorial, 1 Memorial Drive, Arlington

WHEN: 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. daily, through Sept. 7 ADMISSION: Free PHONE: 703/533-1155 WEB SITE: