Last week I had the honor of meeting with photographer and fellow veteran Stacy Pearsall at the Junction City USAA for a portrait session through her Veterans Portrait Project. It was an incredible experience. Persall, an Air Force veteran, is an energetic woman with eyes that reflect a kind heart. She guided me onto the stool and helped me find a comfortable pose. Often shy in front of the camera, I end up looking stiff and imperious, so she asked questions about my tour of duty while placing my hands in a natural positions and turning me toward the camera.
She asked one of those typical questions that I love to hear — so, deployment/family? And I blurted “Oh, going to war is great practice for raising a family. Dealing with children is similar to dealing with terrorists, and vice versa!” and her lighting assistant gave a belly laugh. After that I felt more at ease and tried to charm the camera. It was a fun session, and having my portrait taken this way was extremely special. I often don’t give myself credit for my work in Iraq; I step back and let better veterans, more deserving veterans, take credit. And I’m okay with that. But on this day, it was about me, and it was nice.
Stacy took several silly photos of me with my kids, and then gave me a big hug. The paperwork to fill out — so the pictures would be sent to me — included a question about what being a veteran meant to me. I wrote ‘continued support and service to those in the military’. I love the photos I received. The images are perfect. They show a person who isn’t a soldier anymore, but who wants to continue to serve. And someday I will have them enlarged and framed for each of the kids, not to glorify the fact that I was on the battlefield, but to convey a message that even though war must split up families, it doesn’t change the fact that love remains.
Have a blessed 4th of July.
Please take time to look at these images of the men and women who have served.