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The Importance Of The War Photos In Sons Of Anarchy Explained

Jax Teller's (Charlie Hunnam) life may culminate in a violent legacy at the conclusion of "Sons of Anarchy," but this isn't necessarily the way it's supposed to go. From the first moments of the FX biker drama, it's clear that Jax is unlike his brothers in arms. Where Clay (Ron Perlman) and Tig (Kim Coates) are committed to a life of gun-running, Jax wants a way out. When he finds his late father JT's (voiced by Nicholas Guest) manuscript in storage, it seems like a gift. JT's manuscript is almost a step-by-step guide to saving the club from Clay's nefarious exploits. 

Jax consumes the manuscript quickly, but it isn't the only thing of relevance he finds in his father's box. Accompanied by the manuscript are photos of JT fighting in the war in Vietnam before the club is ever created. Jax is more interested in the manuscript and his father's philosophy in life than these keepsakes, but the wartime pictures are tied to the fate of SAMCRO and are just as significant as JT's final words.

Vietnam is where the Sons of Anarchy were born

Jax is raised to believe that the motorcycle club has always been full of gang warfare and violence. The Sons of Anarchy's relationship with rival MC The Mayans is long-documented and bloody. But this is not the outcome that JT wishes for his son. When reading his father's words, Jax realizes that what JT initially envisions is more about harmony. This harkens back to before Jax is born when the first seeds of the Sons of Anarchy are planted.

Like the manuscript, the war pictures represent the lineage of the club, showing the nine original members of the Sons of Anarchy. It all starts when JT and Piney Winston (William Lucking) fight together in the Vietnam War. One of the darkest periods of world history, this was a divisive time. Many young people protested the war due to its unconscionable acts (via History). In "Sons of Anarchy," this turbulent period lays the groundwork for how the motorcycle club comes to be. 

Instead of being part of the system, JT and Piney want to find a reprieve from the horrors of culture at the time. When the MC is first created, the Sons of Anarchy is a way to be on the fringes of society and live the way that they want. But Jax only knows too well that JT's idealistic intentions do not stick. His father is quickly strong-armed into turning his club into a gang, and he eventually dies from it.

History repeats itself

The pictures from Vietnam also foreshadow what is to come for JT and Piney. Though JT has romantic notions about how to fight the system, it does not work out in his favor. JT meets Clay, which ultimately results in a bloody and brutal end, just like with the war in Vietnam. After returning from the war and creating the club, JT becomes the president, but that doesn't save him from his untimely death. 

JT is unable to steer the club in the right direction despite his position of power. The Vietnam War photos represent the brutality of what the club becomes. Though many of the club members have the best of intentions — Jax included – the violence of the lifestyle is too difficult to overcome. Jax tries his best to course correct the club but unfortunately dies in the same violent fashion as his father. Jax's only hope for his children is to send them away so they don't make the same mistakes that he does.