The U.S. military’s best photos of 2014

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Winners announced in the 2014 Military Photographer of the Year competition

The annual contest is open to U.S. service members

CNN  — 

A sergeant wipes away a tear while kneeling before a battlefield cross at a Memorial Day ceremony for fallen service members at Camp Lemonnier in Djibouti.

Seven Air Force recruits plunge into the deep end of a swimming pool, their hands and feet bound, in a training exercise meant to prepare them for stressful real-world operations.

An Air Force captain jumps rope in a Texas gym despite missing her left leg, which was amputated after being diagnosed with cancer.

These striking images are among the winning entries in the 2014 Military Photographer of the Year competition, open to photography by U.S. service members only. Winners of the annual contest, judged by the Stars and Stripes newspaper, were announced this month.

The Military Photographer of the Year honor went to Air Force Staff Sgt. Vernon Young, a photojournalist with Airman magazine, the official magazine of the U.S. Air Force.

The judges recognized Young for the strength and breadth of his images, among them a F-16 pilot refueling in midair, a soldier whacking golf balls into the Afghan desert and a Navy lieutenant celebrating after winning a game of cards.

The contest is part of the Defense Department’s Visual Information Awards Program, designed to recognize and promote excellence among military photographers, videographers, journalists, mass communication specialists and graphic artists.