While heading to or returning from a war zone, a service member’s mind is filled with a million thoughts of what could occur or what already has. It can be a time for reflection, mental preparation, or rest.
On June 2nd, 2011, a photographer snapped a photo of a soldier going through this experience, taking some time to be by himself before heading out on a deployment.
Photographer Jack Latendresse describes what happened that day in detail:
“This was in the Dallas/Fort Worth International Terminal….2011. The economy was in the tank. Hundreds of soldiers were in the terminal waiting to be deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan. I happened to be sitting in a chair looking out the window while all these brave young men and women were filling these chartered commercial jets up with one mission in hand…to serve and protect our country. And as you can see, the storm was brewing.
What was I doing? I had a secret ring in my hand, and I was headed to Venice, Italy to meet my girlfriend to ask her to be my wife.
Somehow, this particular moment made me feel really guilty and small. There I was, going to Italy to have a good time and propose to my future wife, who was already there waiting on me. Meanwhile, this guy is getting some shut eye before he enters a war zone in one of the most hostile places on earth. The irony was overwhelming for me. I snapped the shot, and then I had this massive sense of guilt bestowed upon me because I didn’t even ask the kid if I could take his picture…he was asleep. So I wrote my name, number and a note on a piece of paper that I had in my backpack. My note read something like, “hey bud…I snapped a photo of you while you were sleeping. I didn’t ask permission, but I didn’t want to wake you. If you don’t mind, just text me when you get this note and let me know if that’s ok.” As I was placing the note next to him, he woke up. It was an awkward moment, but I asked him to read the note. So he did.
He looked up and said “sure, man…would you send me a print?” I said “hell yeah man…gimme your address.”
So he wrote his address down on that sheet of paper, and I stuck it in my pack.
Somehow, somewhere during that trip, I lost the piece of paper and I never sent him the print. I tore my pack apart, and looked everywhere for that note, only to come up short. I searched intermittently for two years on Facebook, passing this image along hoping it would get to him by some crazy chance. But apparently, it never did.
So, today…I came across this photo again, and the guilt seems 10X worse now. Perhaps it’s the years gone by that harden it as a failure of mine, that I let someone down. Someone important…to all of us. He went to the Middle East to defend the very freedom that gave me the opportunity to fly to Italy to propose to my wife…and he asked one thing from me…and I failed.
Young man, I’m really sorry I never sent you that photo. As long as social media exists, I’m going to send this out from time to time, just to make sure I keep trying…and hopefully, as social media grows and the world gets smaller…you’ll recognize it. If you do, holla at me, and I’ll send you that print….maybe I’ll hand deliver it.
God Bless you, man!! I hope you see this one day.”
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