Veterans Voices: Hero Photographer

Veterans Voices

(WLAX/WEUX) – Every picture tells a story. That is why a portrait photographer is traveling the nation, taking hundreds of pictures of veterans. He is hoping to help tell their stories. Jeremy Hubbard shares this report in Veterans Voices.

When you’ve taken a bullet to the helmet like Bill Purcell has, your story has to be told.

Truth is, this entire room is full of marines and sailors with unforgettable stories, and a veterans charity is making sure they don’t go untold any longer.

John Riedy is a photographer for the Greatest Generations Foundation, a non-profit aimed at preserving the history of American heroes. The charity has been gathering groups of Vietnam and Korean War vets like this all over the country, for portrait sessions.

“This is probably the most meaningful work that I’ve done in my career. Nothing kind of compares with leaving something that you know has a legacy and has an impact that this kind of work does, said John Riedy.

“To see people when they follow me, they talk about how this can actually bring tears to their eyes, to see the portraits, and to know that the work conveys that kind of emotional impact is kind of awesome.”

It is a rare moment to shine for veterans, who’ve never sought the spotlight before.

Men like 88-year-old Ted Gembczynski of Colorado Springs, Colorado, who fought on the cold battlefields of Korea, the so-called forgotten war.

Ted Gembczynski, Korean War Veteran, said, “When I wear my cap or people can see that I was there I just let them know that it was my turn.”

“It’s a big deal because I think most of those guys, the Korean War Vets, need to be recognized because they and the World War II vets were the ones that we build on,” said Riedy.

Some of these men spent decades in the service. Some did more than one tour on the battlefield. For Dennis Sedlack of Longmont, Colorado, service is in his blood.

Dennis Sedlack, Navy Veteran, said, “I enlisted because my dad was navy, and WWII and that seemed the thing to do. You couldn`t look your dad in the eye if you didn`t serve. It significantly altered my life to the point that I will say that I’m back from the war, I’m not home from the war yet some 52 years later.”

Their portraits will be made into a commemorative photo album, alongside 70 other Korean War Vets from all over the country, and more than fifty Vietnam Vets.

Riedy said, “I try to see into their eyes and just try to see who they were. Hopefully, we can do that.”

The books will be given to schools and museums all over the country. So future generations can learn about their place in our past, and how to hopefully keep what happened to them, from ever happening again.

For Veterans’ Voices, I’m Jeremy Hubbard reporting

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