I went to college with Jessica, while we weren’t the closest of friends at the time, I remember her for always having a kind word, and positivity that was contagious. She was a team-mate and a friend. After re-connecting on facebook, I was reminded again of how sweet and wonderful she is.
She is a wife and an amazing mother to 3 beautiful children (her oldest is a cancer survivor), she is a very talented photographer, and like so many other military families, she lost in Afghanistan just over one year ago. As she has been known to do, she turned her grief into others comfort, founding and creating Picture The Fallen.
Jessica’s strength, courage, and kindness is continually inspiring to me. I only wish I lived closer to her, so I may know her friendship in person once again. I hope you take the time to read her story, and remember Paul and so many other amazing people like him, who died for our country.A picture is worth a thousand words.
That’s about all I need to say when someone views the photo of my brother’s headstone hanging in my house. You can 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 am missing as well as what 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.
It’s a reminder that he was a hero way before he died because he was always willing to serve and protect, no matter the cost. He was willing to give all andin the end, he did.
Like every other Gold Star Family, my parents had the two military men show up at the door and I got the phone call. That phone call changed it all. We were informed that my brother, SGT Paul E Dumont Jr., was killed in a non-combat 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 didn’t matter to me how he was killed. The fact is that he was gone and gone forever.
That one word, forever. How do you accept that? You don’t really. I clung to my faith with all my might and just stayed there. I’m actually still there and I will continue to hang on to that one promise of being reunited with him. Honestly, on some days I feel that is all I have. I don’t think I could have made it or still make it, if it weren’t for that one promise. I don’t mourn as one without hope. I know where he is, and one day I intend to join him there.
Like others, I enjoy going to Arlington National Cemetery. It helps me to feel closer to him. I hate leaving him and that guilt just eats at me. I feel like I am abandoning my little brother up there. 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 without it actually being him.
It was last year during one of our numerous trips up to Arlington that we realized there were so many families who couldn’t pay a regular visit. For many, the distance has kept them away. As we stood by Paul’s marker we noticed numerous families snapping photos of their loved ones headstones so that they could show it to friends and family or keep them as mementos.
We wanted a way to honor Paul as well as the other thousands of men and women who have given their life for our country. It would be a way to keep their memories alive so that others would never forget. With me being a professional photographer, what better way than to start a non-profit organization that provides prints for Gold Star Families of their fallen heroes headstone.It was then that Picture the Fallen was created.
What families do, is email us with their info, the info of their hero and what verse, saying or quote they would like on the print. From there, we travel to Arlington National Cemetery to locate their hero, take a photo and then provide a finished print. We wanted to find a way to include all Gold Star Families, so if someone’s soldier is not buried in Arlington, we allow them to choose a generic photo of Arlington National Cemetery that we have taken and from there they can personalize it.
We keep in mind that this isn’t for everyone but for those who have wanted them done, it’s helped. It’s touching to receive the cards and emails from other Gold Star Families stating that they really appreciate what we are doing and that in some small way it brings them peace. We’ve had one family say that 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 their bedroom where it is a more subtle view and reminder of what they have lost.
I want people to know that my brother gave everything so that they can live in the land of the free. It’s not something I want hidden and there are many other families who feel the same way.
These prints are created for each Gold Star Family for their own personal reason. Whether that 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 GSF we will continue to travel to Arlington to take photos and create prints.
Nothing we do can take the pain the away, but we can honor these American heroes, promise that we will never forget and create a picture that is worth a thousand words.Much Love,
Jessica Dumont- Oatman and the entire Dumont Family
For more information please visit, www.picturethefallen.org
You can also find Picture the Fallen on Facebook
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