Captain James R. Laughlin, Sr.
41st Squadron, 317th Troop Carrier Group, Fifth Air Force, U.S. Army Air Corps
Southwest Pacific Theatre 1942-1945

I am the grandson of a World War II veteran.  "Pop" died in 1985, when I was in the 8th grade - at a time in my life when I was more concerned about girls and getting my drivers license than I was about learning exactly what it meant to have served in that war.  I never had the chance to hear his account, in his own words, of his World War II story. 

Throughout my childhood in rural Mississippi, my father would always make it a point to introduce me to the older generations of men that served in the first and second world wars.  At that young age, however, I just didn't have the capacity to truly understand how privileged I was to have been in their presence....shake their hands...even see them from a distance.

I eventually followed in the footsteps of my father and grandfather, serving in the U.S. Army upon graduating from West Point in 1993.  Although my time in uniform was worthwhile, I know it didn't hold a candle to what my grandfather experienced.

My World War II project is a tribute to the men and women who selflessly and courageously served our country during the Second World War.  They fought not for fame or recognition, but because it was the right thing to do.  They gave their all to give us our future. 

It's not about medals or campaigns.  Not about rank or branch of service.  For me, it's about selfless service.  Pop served honorably in World War II, and I'd give anything if I could sit down with him now and hear his stories and accounts of the war.  Take his picture.  Shake his hand and embrace him and thank him for serving his country and fighting for the freedoms that his great grandchildren now enjoy.  But I can't.

What I can do, however, is honor those veterans of the great conflict that are still living.  But time is not on my side.  Approximately every two minutes a memory of World War II - its sights and sounds, its terrors and triumphs - disappears.  The men and women who fought and won that war are dying quickly - at the rate of just over 600 a day.

As an on-going project, I am taking portraits of as many World War II veterans as I can.  By working with various veterans organizations, word-of-mouth efforts and social media, I am reaching out to these men and their familes, meeting with them in their homes, listening to their stories and lastly, taking their picture.  It's my way of thanking them for their selfless service, documenting their stories and honoring my grandfather.

This one's for you, Pop.