Living the Legacy: Picture the Fallen
Author: Jessica Dumont-Oatman
It has recently occurred to me that we—all of us American citizens—are the legacy of our American soldiers. We owe them our lives—lives that must be lived to their fullest potential. And this is the greatest tribute we could possibly give. ~ Annette Bridges, freelance writer from Texas.
A picture is worth a thousand words. That’s all I need to say when someone views the photo of my brother’s headstone that hangs in my house. One look at the print, and the words just start coming out: hero, American, death, Arlington, sad, amazing, and the list just goes on. It’s a constant reminder of what I and my parents, siblings, his wife, and my own children are missing. It’s a future that will never be and memories that will never happen with one of the most amazing people you could have ever met.
We were informed that my brother Paul was killed in a noncombat related incident on August 19, 2009 while serving in Kandahar, Afghanistan. He was the fourth child of seven of us. He was the first boy, the comedian, the life of the party, and he was truly just “livin’ the dream.” Nothing will replace him. He died at the young age of 23. It doesn’t matter to me how he was killed. The fact is that he is gone.
Like some, I enjoy going to Arlington National Cemetery. It helps me to feel closer to Paul. People tell me that it’s just his body and that he’s in a much better place, which I know. But on this earth, that is the closest I can come to being near my brother.
Last year during one of our numerous trips to Arlington, we realized there were many families who couldn’t pay a regular visit. Standing next to Paul’s marker we noticed families taking photos of their loved one’s headstones. As a professional photographer, I thought, “What better way to honor their sacrifice than to start a non-profit organization that provides prints for families of their fallen hero’s headstone.” It was then that Picture the Fallen was created. It’s a way for me to honor Paul as well as the other thousands of men and women who have given their lives for our country.
If you are interested in receiving an 11" X 14" print, visit our website and email us your contact information; the information about your hero; and whatever verse, saying, or quote you would like on the print. From there, we will travel to Arlington National Cemetery to locate your hero, take a photo, and provide a finished print. If your loved one is not buried in Arlington, you can choose a generic photo of Arlington National Cemetery and personalize it.
Although this may not be for everyone, we have heard from many that in some small way it brings them peace. One family told us their print hangs in the front entry so that it’s a constant reminder to all who enter that some truly give all. Others like it hanging in the bedroom, a more private reminder of what they have lost. Whether the reason is to show others what their hero gave or to have them feel close when they are so far away, it doesn’t matter. As long as we can help other families, we will continue to travel to Arlington to take photos and create prints.
Nothing I do can take the pain the away, but I can honor these American heroes, promise that I will never forget, and create a picture that is worth a thousand words. For more information please visit, www.picturethefallen.org.
By Jessica Dumont-Oatman, surviving sister of Sergeant Paul Dumont, Jr.