Portraits of Courage

(L to R): Alison Marty (Exec. Director Belmont Village of Burbank), Soren “Whitey” Aton (Capt. US Army Air Corp.) and Thomas Sanders (photographer).

(L to R): Alison Marty (Exec. Director Belmont Village of Burbank), Soren “Whitey” Aton (Capt. US Army Air Corp.) and Thomas Sanders (photographer).

Of all the numerous events that began in July involved with the feelings of patriotism, pride and love of our country, one really stands out as most unusual. I was invited to the Belmont Village Assisted Living Community, located in Burbank, for an outstanding event. There are many locations of Belmont Villages, and on July 1, they were celebrating the fact that many men and women that are residents have also served in many capacities for our country during times of war.
This story starts with an unusual young man named Tom Sanders. When he was a senior in college at Cal-Poly, he studied photography, and in his second year he decided to photograph many living WWII veterans for an assignment. He was so amazed at the people he met and the stories he heard, that he began a project that turned into a mission to meet and capture in portraits as many service men and women from as many states across the USA as he could find. It grew so rapidly that his ultimate goal is to eventually have these published into a memorable book to share with the public. He has already visited four states, and ten more are on his schedule with a goal of 6-7 hundred veterans to meet and photograph, with the final selection of 400 for the finished, outstanding book—and he’s only 24-years old!
The celebration on this day included display of the veterans’ portraits that live at Belmont Village in Burbank where they each got to pose alongside their photo, with many papers and publications attending to record this wonderful event. Live music, a full buffet luncheon and many dignitaries along with families and friends were a focus of the afternoon. Mayor Gary Bric of Burbank attended, along with many City leaders who were amazed by this wonderful celebration. I was honored to meet Mildred Evans who served as a WAVE from 1944-46, teaching young sailors at The Great Lakes Naval Base in Chicago how to shoot 40mm and 20mm guns for naval destroyers! Everyone there was filled with pride, and was honored to meet these incredible, amazing WWII veterans!
For more information on Tom Sander’s work, visit his Web site www.tomsandersphoto.com. I’m looking forward to seeing his completed project, and you will, too!

Barbara Elliot is a contributing writer for the “Tolucan Times.” You can reach her at barbeedee@yahoo.com.


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