It was a smoke war. When the troops weren't smoking they were popping smoke. Historians speak of the "fog of war." Well we carried it in little cans and we had as many colors as Jamba Juice has flavors. We had cranberry red, lime green, and sunflower yellow. This was my favorite, goofy grape.
When you wanted to go home you threw out a can and asked the pilot what color they saw. If there was a match, you got your ride. If Charlie also popped smoke and it didn't match he got his ass handed to him on a platter. If there were two smokes of the same color then there was a problem.
You could also throw it to mark your position and tell the gunship drivers and fast movers to kill every living thing more than x meters from your position. And for photographers, we just hoped that it went well with the background.
Evidently, the sharp eyed art directors at the Washington Post like the shot. Here it opens the Sept 16-22, 2007 Book Section.