Remembering the Veterans

Tomorrow is the day we honor our veterans, the men and women in the military. Yet many seem oblivious to our vets and the meaning of the day. A new book that pays tribute to World War II veterans hopes to change that. Pat Hernandez has the story.

photographer Thomas Sanders photographer Thomas Sanders

The book is called The Last Good War: The Faces And Voices Of WWII. A homework assignment four years ago ended up being much more for photographer Thomas Sanders. As he photographed a portrait of a WWII veteran, Lt Randall Harris told him how schrapnel from a mine that exploded tore into his stomach, but he continued fighting once he secured his wound with his canteen belt.

“At the time I was a 21 year old college student, worrying about the small things in life and, knowing that Randall was my age during WWII helped put my life into perspective, because Randall was praying to live to the next day.”

It wasn’t long after that Sanders began traveling throughout the country, capturing vivid photographs of men and women who served during WWII.

“I always kept very close-cropped images to show the character in the face. These WW II veterans went through the Great Depression, through WWII they had very exciting lives, and there is a lot of character in those faces.”

Sanders says he also kept an account of the stories they told him.

Veronica Kavass
Writer Veronica Kavass

“I did a little research on every guy, and then the little quotes that I had from them, I would give to Veronica, and we would determine who would have the strongest stories.”

Writer Veronica Kavass is with StoryCorps, probably the most prominent oral history organization in the country. She calls the book the most elaborate project she’s done, because of the pictures taken by Sanders.

“I think it’s amazing. I didn’t really know what to picture when I was working on it, because I was spending hours every day, just speaking to veterans. But the final product really embodies the respect that it deserves, and I just think that it turned out perfectly.”

One of the veterans featured in the book is Dominic Calabrese of Houston’sBelmont Village Senior Living Center. He survived a bomb blast on a house in Germany that killed everyone in a platoon.

Veteran Dominic Calabrese

“I walked down there, and I couldn’t even get in, the smoke and the smell. I couldn’t get down there because I wanted to see if anybody was alive or anything, and it was impossible.”

He thinks the book captured the essence of the war survivors.

“I think it’s one of the greatest things they put out, and it’s amazing the job they did, and I’m very honored to be in it.”

For writer Veronica Kavass, she hopes readers have a greater appreciation for the people of this generation.

“It’s clear that they’re not gonna be around for much longer so, it’s really, really great to bring them back into the limelight, and have people look at them differently after they read something like this, go pursue stories from people that are in this age group. I think that’s great.”

It’s called The Last Good War: The Faces And Voices Of WWII.


Images from The Last Good War: The Faces and Voices of World War II.
Photographs © Thomas Sanders, text © Veronica Kavass.
Published by Welcome Books, October 2010.
For more, visit

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