Occasional Moments of Brilliance

Photography that is always great, and occasionally brilliant.

Posts tagged ‘photographer’

Survivor Inspires the Next Generation

InspiringSurvivor-4032When 14-year old Ellie Rutan read “Out of the Depths”, the survival story of a Marine aboard the USS Indianapolis, it planted a seed. She became interested in connecting with these Americans who left home to serve their country during WWII. Through local VFW’s and veterans organizations, Ms Rutan began interviewing them and collecting their stories. “There is nothing like getting to actually talk with the World War II veterans in person,” she said during a CBS Chicago interview. To say that her interest was contagious would be an understatement. Her father began to get calls day and night from those wanting to share their history with her. Even her brothers began to take an interest, holding mock battles in the system of trenches they constructed in the family’s back yard. Eventually, she contacted the author of the story that had so inspired her. Through donations, and the assistance of those same veterans organizations, she put together a presentation at the College Church in Wheaton, IL to honor him and his fellow veterans. Several local VFW’s even pulled together a set of dress blues. These organizations, along with volunteers from North Suburban Young Marines, The Great Lakes Navy Band and the local community all participated in making this a special night for all of the scores of veterans in attendance who’s service spanned the decades. It was an impressive sight when Edgar Harrell stepped to the stage in his crisp uniform to share his experience. Mr. Harrell told about guarding parts of the first atomic bomb as they made their way to final assembly in the Philippines. Afterwards, en route to Leyte and with his duties finished, he decided to sleep under the stars atop the #1 turret. Just after midnight, he awoke to the sound of the first of three torpedo strikes. The ship went down quickly leaving 878 sailors and two Marines to suffer through 4.5 days in the shark infested water. He shared how his Christian faith sustained him through hunger, thirst, and watching friends succumb. On the third day, he swam away from the safety of the group towards some distant debris. It turned out to be a crate from the mess hall. Filled with foul tasting moldy potatoes. It was a lifesaver. Buoyed by the discovery, he described it as sort of like a picnic…except no ants. Ultimately, Mr. Harrell was one of only 317 to survive, and the only Marine.

Afterwards, the veterans in attendance mingled with their comrades and families. Many shared hugs and stories. One Marine, a Vietnam veteran, took a moment to share his original battle map of Iwo Jima to another who had served there. All the while, kids weaved through the crowd, looking up wide-eyed at the assembled heroes.

Commander of the North Suburban Young Marines supervises the Color Guard rehearsal.

A Vietnam era Marine shares mementos from Iwo Jima with another, who fought there during WWII.

A Vietnam era Marine shares mementos from Iwo Jima with another, who fought on the island during WWII.


Coming Back for Tipping Points

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You may remember this post from the last TED conference that I went to. I wasn’t there as a photographer, but was able to capture a few moments in the midst of making sure the backstage area ran smoothly. The folks at TEDxNaperville were impressed with my eye and creativity and asked me to partner with them for this years presentation of “Tipping Points”.

TEDxNaperville is celebrating five years of sharing ideas and sparking discussion at this sold out event on Friday, November 7. I’ll be there, taking photos all afternoon as the ideas flow.

I stopped in last week to get a taste of things to come at The Grounds For Hope Café in Lisle, which will once again be hosting this year’s conference. I had a great time connecting with the TEDxNaperville staff and volunteers as they put on the finishing touches.

A Legend at the Wheel

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The RV lifestyle is a growing trend, and continues to expand in spite of economic changes. After dropping off significantly up to 2009, sales rebounded 46% in 2010 and have continued to grow. According to US News & World Report, the average RV owner is 48 years old. I had the opportunity to meet one long-time RV enthusiast who is skewing that number just a bit higher. Retired Lt. General LeRoy Manor has spent his life on the move. His travels have taken him around the world in service to a country that he loves. It all began when he left his teaching job in New York State and put on a uniform to fly P-47 fighter planes in the skies over Europe in WWII. Most recently he’s settled into spending time touring the country in RV’s.

In a warm afternoon ceremony at Lazy Days in Seffner, Fl., Fleetwood RV President John Draheim presented the general with his eighth RV. It comes as no surprise that Manor is attracted to the build quality and unique features of the American Coach line of Fleetwood RV’s, but there’s little doubt the brand also taps into his patriotic spirit.

Before setting off again on another adventure, he took a few minutes to share some of his journey. I was asked to come out and capture some of those moments.

He began pilot training with the Army Air Corps 1942, and ended up flying 72 combat missions as part of the 358th Fighter Squadron. He described flying over Normandy on D-Day and looking down at the assembled allied fleet, as “an amazing sight”. Later he flew hundreds of missions over Vietnam, served as senior military negotiator and advisor to the US Ambassador the Philippines and was commander of the US Air Force Special Operations Force. Manor is perhaps best known for commanding Operation Ivory Coast which was the 1970 attempt to rescue American POW’s held at Sơn Tây Prison, near Hanoi. While the mission didn’t return any POW’s, it did provide a morale boost and improvement in living conditions for them. After generously sharing many stories from his crystal clear memory, this decorated Air Force veteran was asked what it was like to meet the President of the United States. Having met several, Manor smiled and said “Which one?”

Lt. General Manor has traveled thousands of miles over the years, and looks to cover many more in his new American Coach.