Free Veterans Day Portrait | 2015

For Veterans Day this year, I thought I would do something a little different... Being a Veteran myself, I would typically go out and snag a free breakfast, lunch, or dinner somewhere, and just enjoy the day, getting thanked by hundreds of people for my service. But this year I said, "It's time to give back... but how?"
   Being that I'm a photographer, I figured that I would provide my services for free to my fellow veterans this go around. I mean, who doesn't love a free professional picture, right? But I wanted to do more than just that... I wanted to highlight each veteran that came in individually. Bringing to light in their own words the sacrifices they made, the feelings they felt, the deployments they've been on, or the realities they faced while serving the greatest country on earth. It's THEIR story, however THEY want it to be told.
   I was deployed to Afghanistan in 2009, and I can tell you for a fact that although I never showed my fear on the outside, inside it was screaming. The thoughts are constantly on your mind... "is today going to be my last day? Will my family be taken care of? Do they know how much I love them? Will I ever see home again?" We often overlook or take for granted our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, and friends who take that big courageous step of, "joining the military". But only do we realize just how much we should honor and pay tribute to them when its too late. Far too often we hear of stories on the news of "starbucks didn't put 'merry christmas' on their cups!" or "so and so celebrity passes away" or "victorias secret debuts new catalog"(not that vets don't enjoy a good quality catalog)... but in all seriousness, news articles that should not be making headlines when we still have US military personnel fighting and making huge sacrifices overseas.
   Our priorities have gone down the drain... our country is turning against its own police, our citizens of different races are turning on each other, and our veterans are getting forgotten. Don't let it happen. Take our pride, honor, and country back to where it should be... united as one.
   Aside from all of the nonsense in this world lately, I challenge you... to thank a Veteran for their service. Not just any thank you though, one that's straight from the heart. You'll be surprised as to how humble they are, and how quickly they thank you right back. No matter how big the sacrifice is, in the end all veterans make a sacrifice to help protect this country. Without each other, the team would crumble.

Below are pictures of Veterans, my brothers and sisters in arms, who have made sacrifices of all kinds to ensure the freedom of the greatest country on Earth, the United States of America. This is their story, in their own words.

*NOTE: This blog and these stories are not about bragging, or being the greatest story on earth. They are simply stories of veterans and their service and how THEY want it to be told. There are very heroic and epic war stories out there throughout history but this is not meant to be that.

Herman Hodges, 86
Branch: Army
Status: Disabled Veteran
Years Served: 1951 - 1989
Deployments: Korea(2) and Vietnam
Notable awards: Silver Star, Purple Heart, Combat Award, Combat Infantry Badge, Korea and Vietnam Campaign, Korea Campaign.

From the Author: Herman didn't write a story to be told, but talking to him was one of the best conversations I've had in my life. This man has been places and done things that would blow your mind. Among his very prestigious awards and service in the military, he sent a letter to John F. Kennedy stating that he had a bad feeling about him going to Dallas... and as we all know it, Rosa Parks was the first African American to refuse to sit at the back of the bus, but according to Herman, he in fact was the first to refuse and the bus driver took his side and was told he had to sit behind the curtain.
   Not to mention, Herman was one of the most humble men that i've ever had the pleasure of speaking with. Happy Veterans Day Herman, and thank you for your service.

George Mickelwait, 70
Branch: Navy
Status: Disabled Veteran
Years Served: 1966-1970
Deployments: Vietnam 2.5 tours.
Highest Rank: E-5 Petty Officer 2nd Class
Notable Injuries: Total hearing loss L ear.

His Story: "Two and half tours off the coast of Vietnam. I was part of the crew that picked up Apollo 10 in the South Pacific in 1969. Apollo 10 was the 4th manned space mission in the Apollo Space Program."

From the Author: George had a great sense of pride and a strong, honest presence. Hearing about his story of when they picked up Apollo 10 was mind blowing. Proud to have met this Veteran. Thank you George, and Happy Veterans Day.

Victoria Parker, 30
Branch: Army(active and reserves)
MOS: Military Police Officer, 31B
Status: Disabled Veteran
Years Served: Active 2004-2009 Reserves 2009-Present
Deployments: Operation Iraqi Freedom III(04-05), Operation Iraqi Freedom(15 months 06-08)
Highest Rank: E7 Sergeant First Class
Notable Awards: Combat Action Badge

Her Story: "I'm a female Native American(western shoshone). Joined the military as a Military Police Officer. Deployed to Iraq two times. OIF III as a M2 .50cal Machine Gunner and OIF 06-08 as a Team and Squad Leader. After my deployments I became a Drill Sergeant, instilling the Army Values into new recruits, Loyalty, Duty, Respect, Selfless Service, Honor, Integrity, and Personal Courage. I am also US Army Combatives Level II certified. But most of all, I'm a Female Combat Veteran."


From the Author: Victoria is the perfect example of a strong woman. She expressed to me the frustration of the widely believed myth that females don't go to combat like men. But the fact is, that even though women can't join a 'combat MOS', they do still in fact deploy to the same locations as men, drive the same routes, shoot the same weapons, walk in the same dirt, and get attacked by the same enemy. I instantly took her side, as I know for a fact that the women that deployed alongside me to Afghanistan in 2009 were nothing short of extraordinary. I would trust them with my life over and over again. Aside from her military life, she also has a B.A. in Social Sciences, is a beekeeper, and a volunteer youth wresting coach.

Thank you for your service Victoria, and Happy Veterans Day.

 Joe Vietti, 28 Branch: Navy Status: Veteran MOS: Equipment Operator, EO Years Served: 2007-2013 Deployments: Djibouti, Africa - Guam - Operation Enduring Freedom, Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan Highest Rank: E5 Petty Officer 2nd Class  His Story: "My name is Joe Vietti and I spent 6 years of my life in the United States Navy Seabees. Graduating from Spanish Springs High School in Sparks, NV 2006. My father Richard Vietti pushed me to look into the US Navy Seabees as a chance to not only serve my country, but also learn a trade and to be able to go to college as well. The Seabees are Navy Sailors that are also trained in construction trades. Everything from equipment operators to carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. In February 2007 I headed off to boot camp in Great Lakes, IL and then on to Fort Leonard Wood, MO for my Equipment Operator A-school training. Following my training, I was stationed in Gulfport, MS as part of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11. In September of 2007 I became a plank owner of NMCB11, which was re-commissioned after being decommissioned during the Vietnam War.    I was deployed 3 times with NMCB11. My first deployment was to Djibouti in Africa to support humanitarian construction projects in the region. During my time in Africa, I was able to obtain my Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist Pin. My second Deployment was to Guam to complete infrastructure projects along with DOD projects. Lastly, I was deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan for humanitarian and base support projects. I entered the Navy as an E-1 pay grade and by the end of my enlistment I had reached the pay grade of E-5. My official title was E02 (SCW) Vietti, which stands for Equipment Operator 2nd Class Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist.    After a 6 year enlistment, I decided to no re-enlist and instead come back home to Reno, NV and see what the next chapter in my life would be. I received and Honorable Discharge from the Navy upon completion of my enlistment. I married my wife Ashley in May of this year(2015) and look forward to what my future holds.    After it has all been said and done, I am truly grateful for the people I have met and the experiences I have had over my time in the service. I knew nothing of what to really expect in the military, and I knew nothing about construction when I went in. But, that was the great thing about the military. They transform you form a civilian into someone who is fully capable to complete all jobs. I learned a great deal of knowledge in those years and have had a solid impact on my years after the Navy. When I returned home from the Navy in 2013, A coal aggregate mining company here in Reno, NV, Rilite Aggregate hired me and I continue to work for them to this day. I was able to take what I learned from the military and transfer it to the civilian world. It was quite the experience being in the military but I would not change anything about my time in. I have life long brothers and sisters, and experiences that will forever be remembered and looked back upon for the rest of my life."  From the Author: Joe Vietti and I met back in 2005 when we both worked at IN-N-OUT Burger Store #188 in Sparks, NV. Joe left for the military in the year that followed and we lost touch. I ended up joining the military as well shortly after Joe. With the help of social media, we were able to stay somewhat in touch here and there throughout the years. After the military, we both ended up back home in Reno, NV. When Joe heard about my Free Veterans Day Portrait Session, he decided to come in and see me. It was like we picked up right where we left off in 2005 at IN-N-OUT... never skipped a beat and the friendship was even stronger now due to that one status that many will never understand... being a Veteran. It's like an unspoken feeling of just having the utmost respect for our fellow brothers and sisters.  Thank you Joe for coming in and telling your story, and for your service. Happy Veterans Day!  

Joe Vietti, 28
Branch: Navy
Status: Veteran
MOS: Equipment Operator, EO
Years Served: 2007-2013
Deployments: Djibouti, Africa - Guam - Operation Enduring Freedom, Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan
Highest Rank: E5 Petty Officer 2nd Class

His Story: "My name is Joe Vietti and I spent 6 years of my life in the United States Navy Seabees. Graduating from Spanish Springs High School in Sparks, NV 2006. My father Richard Vietti pushed me to look into the US Navy Seabees as a chance to not only serve my country, but also learn a trade and to be able to go to college as well. The Seabees are Navy Sailors that are also trained in construction trades. Everything from equipment operators to carpenters, electricians, and plumbers. In February 2007 I headed off to boot camp in Great Lakes, IL and then on to Fort Leonard Wood, MO for my Equipment Operator A-school training. Following my training, I was stationed in Gulfport, MS as part of the Naval Mobile Construction Battalion 11. In September of 2007 I became a plank owner of NMCB11, which was re-commissioned after being decommissioned during the Vietnam War.
   I was deployed 3 times with NMCB11. My first deployment was to Djibouti in Africa to support humanitarian construction projects in the region. During my time in Africa, I was able to obtain my Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist Pin. My second Deployment was to Guam to complete infrastructure projects along with DOD projects. Lastly, I was deployed to Camp Leatherneck, Afghanistan for humanitarian and base support projects. I entered the Navy as an E-1 pay grade and by the end of my enlistment I had reached the pay grade of E-5. My official title was E02 (SCW) Vietti, which stands for Equipment Operator 2nd Class Seabee Combat Warfare Specialist.
   After a 6 year enlistment, I decided to no re-enlist and instead come back home to Reno, NV and see what the next chapter in my life would be. I received and Honorable Discharge from the Navy upon completion of my enlistment. I married my wife Ashley in May of this year(2015) and look forward to what my future holds.
   After it has all been said and done, I am truly grateful for the people I have met and the experiences I have had over my time in the service. I knew nothing of what to really expect in the military, and I knew nothing about construction when I went in. But, that was the great thing about the military. They transform you form a civilian into someone who is fully capable to complete all jobs. I learned a great deal of knowledge in those years and have had a solid impact on my years after the Navy. When I returned home from the Navy in 2013, A coal aggregate mining company here in Reno, NV, Rilite Aggregate hired me and I continue to work for them to this day. I was able to take what I learned from the military and transfer it to the civilian world. It was quite the experience being in the military but I would not change anything about my time in. I have life long brothers and sisters, and experiences that will forever be remembered and looked back upon for the rest of my life."

From the Author: Joe Vietti and I met back in 2005 when we both worked at IN-N-OUT Burger Store #188 in Sparks, NV. Joe left for the military in the year that followed and we lost touch. I ended up joining the military as well shortly after Joe. With the help of social media, we were able to stay somewhat in touch here and there throughout the years. After the military, we both ended up back home in Reno, NV. When Joe heard about my Free Veterans Day Portrait Session, he decided to come in and see me. It was like we picked up right where we left off in 2005 at IN-N-OUT... never skipped a beat and the friendship was even stronger now due to that one status that many will never understand... being a Veteran. It's like an unspoken feeling of just having the utmost respect for our fellow brothers and sisters.

Thank you Joe for coming in and telling your story, and for your service. Happy Veterans Day!
 

Emery Williams, 65
Branch: Army
Status: Disabled Veteran, Retired.
MOS: Armor Crewman(M-48 M-60 Tanks/M-1 Mech), 11E/45E
Years Served: 1969-1978, 1987-1992, 1992-2000
Deployments: 69-70 Vietnam, 72-75 Germany, 91-92 Germany
Highest Rank: E-6 Staff Sergeant
Notable Awards: Combat Infantry Badge, German Marksmanship Gold

His Story: "I enlisted in March 1969, and got to the Republic of Vietnam in October of that same year. I came down with malaria in September 1970. I was weighing around 180lbs. 5 weeks later I got to my brother's house at a strapping 140lbs. I bought a honda 350 from my cousin and rode it to Fort Hood, TX. Tuned it up and bought a Harley Davidson. I went to Germany and discovered REAL beer! I then went to Fort Polk, LA and discovered REAL food. I left active duty for an extended party, then went back to active duty to finish my career. In 1992 my mother had a stroke, so I left active duty to help take care of her and joined the National Guard. Good Times!"

From the Author: Meeting Emery was an honor. This proud veteran had a very humble attitude and wanted a simple picture of himself now holding a picture of himself back in his early days in the military. He quotes, "there's quite a bit of mileage in between that pic and me now haha".

Thank you Emery for your service, and Happy Veterans Day.

Jillian Green, 28
Branch: Air Force
Status: Air National Guard
MOS: Security Forces
Years Served: 2005-Present
Highest Rank: E-5 Staff Sergeant
Deployments: Afghanistan - Guantanamo, Cuba

Her Story: "My name is Jillian Green, formerly DeCair. I joined the US Air Force on December 2nd, 2005. The missions that I've been on are a bit crazy. Two Deployments, and three detainee missions. I have been in the Security Forces for over 10 years, and now am a member of the 152nd HQ Squadron in Reno, NV. I will continue to serve my country as long as they'll allow me to. My life consists of Integrity first, Service before self, and Excellence in all we do! Born and raised Battle Born - SSGT Green."

From the Author: Jillian and I first met about 5 years ago in Reno, NV through mutual friends. Although her story is very humble and short, she is an amazing human being that has done incredible things, and has a beautiful family that she would do anything for. With a strong husband and 2 beautiful girls, she deployed and they stayed behind to take care of the home front. On veterans day 2014, her husband Josh brought Jillian home to us in form of a cardboard cutout at our local parade. It was their way of having her with them during the holiday, while she was overseas deployed, keeping our country and its citizens safe. She may not talk about it much, but I can only imagine how hard it was to leave her family behind as she went off to war, which traditionally is the other way around. Jillian is a dear friend, and sister in arms, and I have so much respect for her and the sacrifices she makes every day for her family.

Thank you Jill. You'll always be a great friend and sister in arms. Happy Veterans Day.

Amanda Williams, 31
Branch: Air Force
Status: Active Duty, Air National Guard
MOS: Security Forces, Vehicle Operations
Years Served: 2003-Present
Highest Rank: E-5 Staff Sergeant
Deployments: Three Deployments for Operation Enduring Freedom, One Detainee Movement Operation
Notable Awards: 152 LRS Airman of the Year, Airman of the Quarter(x2)
Notable Injuries: Traumatic Brain Injury during first deployment.

Her Story: "I joined the Air Force on July 28, 2002 and was in the delayed entry program until August 11, 2003. Stationed at Edwards AFB, CA as a security forces member. I joined NVANC in 2006 as a security forces member. Later, I deployed to Manas AB, Kyrgyzstan, and had 1 detainee movement operation from Afghanistan to Cuba. After that, I joined Vehicle Operations in 2009, and graduated from Tech School number 1 in class. My next deployment was to Al Dhafra AB, in the United Arab Emirates in 2011. During the tragic Stead Air Races Crash that happened in September 2011, I was one of the first responders. Later I again deployed to Al Dhafra AB in 2013-2014.
   Other jobs that I've had while serving are: Counter Drug Task Force Drug Demand Reduction Instructor in 2009, Information  Technology Assistant for 152 Comm. Sq. in 2012, HQNVANC Military Personnel Management Assistant in 2013."

From the Author: I met Amanda at our mutual friend's wedding(see previous Vet's pic), Mrs. Jillian Green. Amanda is a very strong willed and beautiful human being. Her service to our country and patriotism is incredible to say the least. A proud, strong, beautiful American woman and Airman, I am proud to call her my friend and sister in arms.

Thank you for your service Amanda, and Happy Veterans Day.

Jayson Guy, 29
Branch: Air Force
Status: Air National Guard
MOS: Security Forces, 3PO71
Years Served: 2005-Present
Highest Rank: E-5 Staff Sergeant
Deployments: Afghanistan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Spain.

His Story: "I joined the Air Force in July 2005. Deployed 4 times to many different places and missions. One detainee operation from Afghanistan to Cuba, Spain, Manas AB, Bagram Afghanistan, and Jaber Kuwait."

From the Author: Jayson and I met in 2010. We were both in the same academy for the Nevada Department of Corrections. After graduation from the academy, we were separated to different prisons in northern Nevada. Throughout the years, Jayson and I would stay in touch via social media, and the occasional military event here in Reno, NV. As you can tell by his story, he is a very humble and soft spoken person, but don't let that fool you. Jayson is a true American that serves his country proudly, and loves his wife more than anything in the world. He will be there to help you at the drop of a hat no matter what.

Thank you Jayson for your service, and Happy Veterans Day.

Erik Goldsworthy, 21
Branch: Air Force
Status: Air National Guard
MOS: Loadmaster, 1A251
Years Served: 2014-Present
Deployments: Coming Soon

His Story: "I am a 3rd generation service member at the beginning of my career. I joined the Nevada Air National Guard right out of high school. My father works at the same base as I do and I hope that I can live up to his colossal reputation and create my own legacy at the same time."

From the Author: Erik was a pleasure to work with. Sharp, honorable, and eager to serve his country. Erik has not deployed as of yet, but that does not make him any less of a brother in arms to me than any other veteran. When you meet someone like Erik, and hear them speak and see their commitment, you just know they will do great things in their life. Good luck in your military career Erik, I look forward to talking to you again.

Thank you for your service Erik, and Happy Veterans Day.

Eric Adorno, 28
Branch: Army
Status: Honorably Discharged
Years Served: 2006-2015
Highest Rank: E4
Deployments: Operation Enduring Freedom 08-09 FOB Blessing, Kunar Province, Afghanistan.
Notable Awards: Nato Medal, Afghanistan Campaign Medal, 2 Army Commendation Medals, Good Conduct Medal, Army Achievement Medal.

His Story: "I joined the Army on November 20th, 2006. Was an Artillery Paratrooper with the 82nd Airborne Division at Ft. Bragg, NC. I later deployed to Afghanistan on a support mission for the 1/73rd Infantry and 1st Infantry Division in 2008-2009. In 2015 I was honorably discharged and am now a student at the University of Nevada Reno earning a bachelors degree in Information Systems."

From the Author: Eric and I first met back in 2011 through mutual friends. Since then, he has been a dear friend of mine. A true patriot, hard working man, and a person that would be there to help you whenever you asked. That is the epitome of a Veteran and man.

Thank you for your service Eric, and Happy Veterans Day.

Thank you to all Veterans... past, present, and future who serve our county with pride, honor, and integrity.

Don't forget to SHARE their stories!

Special Thanks to the following:
Hatch Reno for providing the studio space
Tina Mokuau for providing makeup and hair touchups
Nevada Pearl for bringing a bunch of snacks and drinks for everyone
Paola Martinez for assisting me during the shoot
John Pocino for keeping the veterans company while I was shooting