Assignments sometimes rhyme or hit on similar themes. Over the last week or so I found myself photographing two US Marines from the polar ends of living memory of that branch of service.
Frank Johnson is often called the Mayor of Unionville because of his long history of involvement in the Macon, GA neighborhood. The community center with a swimming pool and the gym that hosts AAU basketball there bears his name. Turns out he was also one of the storied Montford Point Marines.There are few of the original African American Marines, called to service by President Franklin D. Roosevelt, still living. When the remaining Montford Point Marines were honored by Congress last year in Washington, DC, Johnson was too frail to make the trip. Johnson was given the honor at a special ceremony attended by other Montford Point Marines, as well as active duty Marines, at Macon City Hall instead. I shot the assignment for the Telegraph
Lieutenant Colonel David Steele bows to shake Frank Johnson's hand before Johnson was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in a ceremony in Macon City Hall Tuesday.
A Marine color guard in Macon City Hall for the ceremony honoring Frank Johnson Tuesday.
Johnson was given this medal to mark his service in the Marine Corps. as one of the Montford Point Marines.
Dorothy Johnson wipes tears as she watches a slideshow about her husband Frank Johnson's life during the ceremony held to honor him at Macon City Hall Tuesday.
Back to the present day and present day conflicts. Brad Colbert was a member of the US Marines Force Reconnaissance forces at the start of the second Iraq War. A reporter from Rolling Stone embedded with Colbert and his fellow Marines, wrote a three part story which turned into a book which in turn became a miniseries on HBO called Generation Kill. I was contacted by the folks that produce the Marine Corps Times last week to shoot Colbert, now stationed at Fort Benning near Columbus, GA, for a story they were writing about him. Colbert now speaks with other active and former service members about menta health issues. The goal is to erase the stigma against seeking mental health treatment on the part of service members.
The assignment was to create an environmental portrait. I lucked out. What was going to be a meeting at the office compound where he works turned into meeting Colbert on a morning when he was planning on making a jump with an Airborne class.
Marine Master Sergeant Brad Colbert uses his fame within the Corps to help eliminate the stigma among service members about seeking help for service related mental health issues.
Marine Master Sergeant Brad Colbert, right, talks with Marine Staff Sergeant Kevin Shepherd while Shepherd waited with other members of his Airborne certification class to make the last two of their jumps for that certification at Fort Benning in Georgia. The Airborne clas had been getting up at around 2 or 3 am for a number of days at this point in the training. "I always wanted to meet him. He's kind of a legend in the Marine Corps," Shepherd said.
Marine Master Sergeant Brad Colbert, left, before going up for a jump with an Airborne class at Fort Benning, GA.
For my money, this last one does the job.