A reporter is working on a story on the declining membership of our local Veterans of Foreign Wars post. Members, who are mostly older Vietnam and Korean War and WWII veterans, are dying faster than they’re being replaced by younger veterans.
My options for illustrating the story were limited – I had only a couple of days to come up with a photo for the story. The best illustration would have been to cover the funeral of one of the members.
Given the uncertainty of that possibility I decided to attend a regular meeting of VFW post. no. 379 and photograph whatever or whomever looked interesting that I felt would work with the story.
(This is sometimes how our photo process works – just show up and figure out photography on the fly. Sometimes this works, sometimes it doesn’t).
The scene was pretty static – about what I expected. The light, however, was interesting and provided some opportunities.
All of the faces – young and old – had character and would have made for good photos in the right light. But I was immediately drawn to Gordon Penaluna, an 86-year Army veteran of Korean War.
I focused in on his face – it seems to embody the current state of the VFW. His cap with its “lifetime member” patch added an extra detail to the photo. Wanting to include a bit of context for the photo, I included several other members in the background.
I had a thoroughly enjoyable chat with Mr. Penaluna following the meeting and would have loved to have a beer with him and listen to stories of his life. I’m sure they would have been good ones.