June’s first Notable Narrative recounts the story of Blue Platoon, Killer Troop, whose soldiers returned to the U.S. in 2009 after finishing one of the last 15-month combat tours in Iraq. The story behind this multimedia project is simple and all too familiar: The Killer Blue soldiers serve. Some die. Others make it home. And some who come back find themselves damaged in ways they do not understand or accept.

But an inverted structure makes the story fresh. The video portion of the project opens by running several platoon members past the viewer, letting us hear their voices, and then dives into suspense by showing footage from a funeral. We hear the slow whine of the motor lowering a coffin into the grave and watch it descend, but we don’t know who died. Then suddenly we see scenes from the platoon’s homecoming. We scan the troop formation. Who didn’t make it? Who is missing?

The video of this Associated Press project is crisp, without the self-conscious grittiness of much war reporting. If this kind of footage makes the package almost slick, it somehow also makes it more dramatic. We see impeccable sequences of these young men playing golf, joking around, doing the terrible job that could end their lives at any moment. And we get to know the voices of men like Lt. Rusty Morris, who mentions “war stories that you want to tell, but you don’t want to tell.” We sense his grief, and we worry about what will happen to those who make it back.

Original music, links to a 2008 print piece, and interactive elements—including soldiers’ recollections about those who died—add depth to this complex portrait of a platoon.

Watch “Killer Blue: Baptized by Fire,” by Maya Alleruzzo, Rick Bowmer, and Evan Vucci

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