Tears Fall at Veterans Tribute

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4:25 am | November 10, 2013


 

Tears spilled down speakers’ faces as they thanked the 34 veterans who are residents of Pasadena’s Villa Gardens retirement community at an “Honoring Our Heroes” ceremony on Friday.

At Villa Garden’s first Veteran’s Day event, each veteran was honored with a rose as they came in, escorted to their seat, and saluted by a Lieutenant as they received a gift from artist Thomas Sanders, who specializes in photographing war veterans.

Photographer Thomas Sanders brought each veteran’s story to life by photographing each one with memorabilia they cherish  from their time of service. A beautiful art gallery displayed the men and two women in a heroic glow.

“His photos have always moved me. They move me party because they are of veterans, but also because they are beautiful. We do not often say that about photos of people over the age of 35 years old,” Director of Marketing Dawneen Lorance said.

“Being alone with all of these photos was mind blowing. It’s mind blowing how much they each have so much honor at their age and pride in how they have served,” said Ian Wilkins of Merge Custom Framing. He had framed and hung the photographs to look like a photo gallery in a large tent for the event.

A copy of the photograph with an award was given to each veteran by Lieutenant Commander Sean Foster. Foster spoke of his current time in service and how deeply he appreciates each of the men and women who gave their time and risked their lives for this country, especially on Veteran’s day.

Pasadena Councilmember Victor Gordo also came to thank the veterans, speaking of his family’s immigration to America and what an honor is for him to now serve on City Council, only possible because of the men and women who fought for the country’s freedom.

“I am here personally here to say thank you,” Gordo said, “I brought with me my son Michael who is eight years old because on this special occasion as you reflect backwards to your time as a veteran for this country, I would also like you to reflect forward. You are a part of America’s generation, but it’s that generation that will be responsible for spawning even greater generations.”

The veteran’s all kept thanking Sanders for the photographs and said they were delighted with how it turned out, truly amazing. Clark Hubbs was particularly fascinated.

“This is a different image of me looking up instead of at the camera. That’s very interesting,” Hubbs said.

Sanders said he takes the photographs as a way of honoring their service and preserving their stories for the future. As Dawneen said, his art shows a respect for rich life stories, in a society where aged and aging are often ignored.

“I hope when people see my photographs of World War II veterans and see their stories they become more appreciative of all those who have served our country and fought our wars. I hope when they are out in their communities people go up and thank them for their time and their sacrifices,” Sanders said.

Sanders said he has been taking photographs of World War II veterans for the past nine years and that some of those whose pictures he has taken have already died.

“Sometimes I would photograph a world war veteran one week, and then the next week he would pass away,” Sanders said. “It’s incredibly sad, but I’m also fortunate that I am able to preserve and honor these World War II veterans.”

The San Francisco-based photographer said he started the project when he was a 21-year-old college student. He got inspired to work on the collection after he heard the story of a World War II veteran who, during an ongoing war, stepped on a landmine, got hit with shrapnel, but continued fighting on the same day amid his injury.

“Hearing that story as a 21-year-old college student really helped my life [be put] in a perspective,” Sanders said.

“I want people to be aware of veteran stories and what they gone through. When people are going through their everyday lives, ranting about the small things, they’ll realize that the veterans really made big sacrifices for our freedom,” he added.