Tom Graves Photography

HEROES ALL: America’s Veterans of WWII and Korea

On the Fourth of July 2001, I began traveling around the country meeting and photographing veterans for HEROES ALL. The most compelling of over 100 black-and-white portraits, and the accompanying interviews, are now ready for publication.

Our 23 million patriots—our veterans of World War II and Korea—are rarely recognized other than on Memorial Day and Veterans Day. Yet these men and women are as patriotic as those who founded this nation. They left behind their quiet lives to take up the fight for freedom. They sacrificed to protect the American way of life, some dying, some bleeding many miles from home. Some still carry the scars. They are HEROES ALL.

My own father’s reluctance to discuss his experiences prevented any meaningful conversations between us about the war and about those important years of his life. Fortunately, I learned other men and women were willing to talk with me. Some were flattered I showed interest in them and in an older generation. Others, long silent for their own reasons, felt the time was right for their stories to be told, listened to, and perhaps committed to history. I now have a hundred fathers—and mothers. The glimpses of their young lives that they choose to share with me became windows onto my own youth and upbringing. Veterans told me, “I have talked more with you about this than I ever did with my wife or kids.” Why? “Because you asked.”

While Americans may be ignorant of geography and history, our roots—where we came from—intrigue us. Our parents and grandparents are the first step toward this discovery. As they pass, so do our personal histories and the history of the first half of the Twentieth Century: the years of the Great Depression, World War, Holocaust, migration, air travel, the Atomic Age. What began as a personal expression of interest in a prior generation has become a touchstone of the foundations and values that shape our nation and ourselves. Meet our heroes and learn from them—as I did.

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