Heart Of Our Heroes
1 Oct 2011
What if you could tell the heroes in your life your thoughts? What would you say? How would you say it?
At the beginning of the war in Iraq, we were able to do just that through a photo. A photo my wife Lorraine and I took of our daughter Natalie.
A new friend I had met through one of my stories sent me an email and asked if I had any thoughts for a photo for a magazine she had started. She was looking for a special photo that conveyed a message of love. The photo, I was told, would be for the Fourth of July edition of her magazine, and needed to be patriotic. I told her about a photo of my daughter praying we had taken in the days following 09-11-01. I said how the photo was inspired by the Firefighters and Police Officers who had lost their lives trying to save others. The photo had been shared with many in the day's weeks and months that followed 09-11-01. She liked the idea for the photo, I then told her to let me think about how I could make the photo as special as I could, and get back with her.
The next day at work I looked at the front page of the local newspaper and saw the picture of a young man standing proudly in his Army uniform. In the background of the photo was a flag. The photo caught my eye and my first thoughts were, "he looks so young". As I started reading the story I learned the young man was from Howell, MI and one of the first to die fighting for our country in Iraq. This young Hero was close to the same age as my oldest son Will. I kept thinking, "What if he was my son?" How did his parents feel? I wondered if they knew we were praying for all of them? The hurt from those thoughts stuck with me all day.
That night after when my daughter Natalie came in from playing I asked her to get her jammies on, I told her I wanted to take a special photo for America. Natalie asked, "Daddy, who in America?" I told her about the young man I saw in the paper that day and told her, "His Mommy and Daddy must be pretty sad." I told her I wanted to take a picture of her praying, just like the one we took after 09-11-01, only this photo was to share with all the people who had lost their sons or daughters. The photo was also for all who were fighting for our country who were far away from home.
With the thought of the flag and the young man from the article earlier in the day on my mind, I took our flag down from our flagpole and brought it in the house, to use it for the photo. Natalie and I stapled the stars end of our flag to a broom handle. The flag didn't hang the way I wanted so I asked Lorraine to come help hold furls in the flag for the photo. A few minutes later she came in and after she got over the staples in her broom handle, we set up the photo with a light between Natalie and the flag. (All I wanted to be seen in the photo was the silhouette of a little girl praying and the brightly lit flag). We shot several pictures and when we were done the results were more that I had ever hoped.
I sent the photo to my friend Victoria in New York. She loved it and wanted to use it. The photo we called, "Dear Lord I Pray" ended up on page 3 of the July edition of her magazine. We were very proud of our accomplishment and wanted to share the photo with everyone in America. I saw on the Internet that AOL was requesting special photos for a series called American Pride. I sent in the photo and it was selected for use. Many wrote saying they loved the photo, within a week it had been downloaded several hundred times.
One night I asked God if he would help me share the photo (I knew there were many broken hearts, just like the parents of the young man who helped inspire the photo). "I swear" the next day I received a e-mail from AOL asking if they could show our photo on CNN for the Fourth of July. Our family was again, very proud. That weekend I told my niece Amy about one of our photos being on CNN. She asked me if I could send the picture to her at work, saying, she also wanted to share it. (Amy worked for an adverting company that own and design billboards).
Amy proudly showed the photo to all of her co-workers. One of Amy's co-workers, an artist named Marie sent me an email and said she was very touched by the photo. Her note said, "the photo tells all that is in her heart," she went on to explain, she has one son that is in Iraq and one who just came home safely. I replied to her email and told her that I asked God to help me share it and I was glad she enjoyed the photo along with the love we put into it. Marie then asked me if I truly wanted to share the picture. I said, "You bet!" She then emailed the photo to artists in all 50 states and within 10 minutes she got replies back from 4 states. (Marie asked me if we could re-shoot the photo so it could be blown up to 12 X 50? I asked, inches? She replied, no feet.
We never asked for any money for using the photo. We asked God to share the photo and He did, it was truly a labor of love.)
Billboards with the photo of our little girl praying for America have stood in many states, with one of the most special, posted just before Thanksgiving 2003. That billboard read "Welcome to Las Vegas Mr. President. God Bless Our Troops."
One of our greatest hopes was to get a copy of the photo to our troops for Christmas. Many of our friends had posted the photo on their web sites and told of our request. We received many emails. We told each how we wanted to let troops know we were praying for all of them by sharing the photo with them on Christmas.
On Christmas Eve night as we were getting ready to go to the candle light service at our church, I sat down to look at our email. There on my computer was an email from a man in Iraq. He was in charge of Internet services for our troops overseas. His reply to me was simple and was the best Christmas present we ever received. He said, "Bill, I heard about your request to share your picture with our troops for Christmas, 'Consider it done!' The photo of your daughter praying will be our service men and women email on Christmas morning".
I sat at my computer with tears in my eyes, reading an email from a man half way around the world, thanking God for helping us to share a gift, a gift straight from the heart of our heroes.
Note: For the five year anniversary of 09-11 my wife and I went back to NY, where we gave one of the fire fighters a sticker with the photo of our daughter praying for our heroes. He took the photo and placed it over the table where they eat. The photo had finally made it home to the heroes who helped inspire it.