It was always and still is my intention to do a military shoot of some kind. I've got a few ideas bouncing around in my head. Just need to find a photogenic solider to pull it off. Or if I could even find a military family looking for family photos then that would work too. Until then, this image is the closest thing I will get to a military tribute. That's just fine by me though because this one is special for more than a couple of reasons.
First let me say that it's always a struggle to consider myself a veteran. I guess I technically am a veteran by the pure definition of the word. I signed up for the Air National Guard. I went through Basic Military Training. I did my full six years. I served active duty. I was even on active duty during the Gulf War. I was never actually deployed though. My service was done in a support role on the Air National Guard base in Des Moines. It just seems to me that the real veterans are those that did true active duty as their main role and not just in a National Guard type capacity.
The truest veteran to me is someone like Dad. Someone who was drafted when there was still a draft. Someone who served in Vietnam, one of the most baseless wars our country ever had up to that point. That's back during the time when the soldiers came home there weren't people thanking them for their service. Folks were cursing them out when all they were doing is serving this country. Yet Dad still manager to persevere despite all the obstacles that GIs faced then. He would go on to get in a full 20 years. Now THAT'S a veteran for you.
So the idea for this pic came about as I was going through some of Dad's old photos during my visit there in Bloomington. He has several epic pics from his days in Vietnam. I came across one where he was in a Vietnam hospital giving high five to some other cat and something just instantly clicked. That's when I got the idea to do a concept of young Dad meeting older Dad.
Dad was running errands while I was rummaging through pics and he returned looking dapper as usual. I told him the idea then had him stand in the living room while I captured the necessary pose. With some Photoshop trickery (and I'm not going to lie..it actually took a LOT of PS trickery because I'm not that good at it), I removed the guy who was there and we have past Dad giving a high five to present Dad. Honestly, it actually came out much better than I anticipated.
One of my favorite reasons why I love this pic so much is it was the last piece of my work that I was able to see Mom enjoy. This was near the end when she was slowly declining. I showed her the finished product and she loved it. I had done more shoots after that, but the next time I would get back to Bloomington, Mom was in her final days. She was unfortunately a shell of her former self. If she had seen any of my other work after that, she didn't have the strength nor even the ability to tell me. At least I was able to get her approval from an image that mattered. One of the man she loved and the one veteran that matters the most to me.