Why Veterans ... Why Military?


As a child, having ancestors who served in every major conflict from the Revolutionary War through the Vietnam War, I was instilled with a respect for, and consistent interest in, America's history and those who paved the way for the liberties we now enjoy. Combining that with being raised in a city with five military bases, I gained a great love, admiration, and respect for our country, and for those who have served, and those who are now serving, to protect and maintain our freedoms, and the families that stand behind them. Like our founding fathers, our service men and women come from all walks of life with diverse backgrounds and professions. In a way they are just like you and me, ordinary people, except for one significant difference. At some point they took an oath, willing to lay down their life for you, me, and values that America embraces. I cannot dismiss the fact that throughout the history of the United States of America, our service men and women have, in essence, given up a portion of their freedoms so that we may enjoy ours.

When one joins the military, they may not expect to die for their countrymen, although they are very aware of the probability. Yet, I believe that to be willing to leave the circle of family and loved ones, the comforts of home, and to allow the government to dictate where they go and live to protect and preserve this great country, and possibly die doing it, is truly a noble sacrifice. Whether they live or die in the service of our country, it is a sacrifice that all too often goes unnoticed and under-appreciated.

While I am a natural light portrait photographer, a large portion of my photography is directed towards the military, it's veterans and their families, supporting and preserving the history of those who have answered the call of duty.

The purpose of my photography is to bring, while a small minute way, an awareness to others, not to glorify war, but to shed light on the lessons learned and more specifically, focus on those brave and not so brave (in their own words) souls & families that faced not only the reality of war or service, but the lasting affects both good and bad in their own lives and the legacy they have left behind for the generations to come. All these men and women served and sacrificed for causes much greater than themselves. Some causes they agreed with and some they did not, but each accepted the call to serve. Ultimately it is my attempt to put a face and story behind the soldier and their families so that we as citizens may know whose blood and sacrifice, we freely live off of each day, and while we try to avoid war at all costs "there are still things worth fighting for" Norman Schwarzkopf.

Besides a love of freedom, much of my support for veterans, service members, and their families through my photography I owe to a man named Jon, and his service as a Vietnam veteran, and also his willingness to speak to me about it. As a young high school student, I chose to interview Jon about his experiences in the Vietnam war as part of an extra credit project for History class. It has only now occurred to me that at the time it had been less than 20 years since his experiences "in-country" when I was some fledgling baby in diapers while he was fighting his way through the jungles of Vietnam. For me Vietnam was stuff written in history books and while I loved history, the war in my history book seemed to have happened a century ago.

In some naïve way I assumed I would sit in Jon's living room and listen to a war story about fighting, returning home and life going on ... the stuff Hollywood makes it out to be. What we don't see is the lasting effects that come with those experiences. At the same time, I was eager to hear firsthand, to know about the faces behind the dates and places in history, the real person, the real story, the real experience. Who do I owe my freedom too?

And so, the interview took place. A bright-eyed teenage girl listening to the reality of one man's experience in Vietnam unfold. The horrors, the tears, the friends lost, some dying in his own arms, and the sleepless nights that continued even 20 years after the war and a nation that turned its back on one of its own.

I don't know what either of us thought the outcome would be. What stirred in me, having already been interested in history and the personal stories, was the realization that there was so much more beneath the places and dates in history books. I felt that people should know, and while I did not embark on a path to capture stories at that time, I continued to soak up history and information from those who were there.

Years later, from a war that Jon has tried to forget, I have spent remembering, which has propelled me into what I do today with my photography. When people learn they begin to care. When they care they stop taking for granted the freedoms we have and those who fight for them.

Freedom is never free.

Click on the following link to enjoy a photographic tribute to our military Front Echelon Military Tribute

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