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Meeting Real Life Heroes

Retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, a member of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, talks with Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio., about legislation awarding the Congressional Gold Medal to the group. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

I had the privilege of photographing some World War II vets this week. One 98-year-old gentleman was a co-pilot in the initial bombing runs over Japan. He was retired Lt. Col. Richard E. Cole, a member of the Doolittle Tokyo Raiders, who is originally from Ohio. The Raiders were B-25 bomber pilots who volunteered for the first offense action against Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.

The 93-year-old man pictured below jumped into Normandy on D-Day. He works a few days a week at the World War II museum in New Orleans.

WWII Vet

Tom Brokaw and World War II veteran Tom Blakey, 93, of New Orleans, talk before a screening of "D-Day 3D: Normandy 1944," which Brokaw narrated, at the IMAX theater in the the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call)

When you're around the WWII vets, they are kind of treated like celebrities. People lined up to talk and take pictures with them. Personally, I am in awe that these now-frail, old men basically saved the world.

After photographing someone you have to get their information — name, age, etc. — and that usually leads into some conversation. So covering vets is fun because I do a little interview to find out about their experiences.  

The Army vet below served a unit that helped liberate Paris. I insinuated that the Parisian ladies must have thought that was pretty cool. He responded in the affirmative with big smile and eyebrow raise.  

WWII Vets

Retired Army Lt. Col. Alfred H.M. Shehab, 90, arrives to a Veteran's Day ceremony in Maryland's Crownsville Veterans Cemetery. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

   

Meet Louis. His family started Cantania Bakery on North Capitol Street. I lived in the neighborhood and was fascinated that a bakery that specialized in Italian hard rolls (get them at Litteri's and Mangialardo's) was on a pretty blighted strip. When I asked him about it he gave a simple answer — the family started the place in 1932, when the neighborhood was mostly Jewish and Italian.  

He served as a medic in Europe and volunteered for the war so his younger sibling didn't have to go.  

WWII Vets

Louie Caruso, 94, one of the founders of Catania Bakery on North Capitol Street, poses for a picture in the establishment. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

This picture below was taken near the Wall at the Vietnam Memorial. These two Vietnam vets hadn't seen each other since one of them was flown off the battlefield in 1967. They just happened to run into each other. Both men were members of the Army's Wolf Hounds.  

(Please excuse the quality of this photo. It was taken in 2003 with an early generation of Nikon digital cameras. I can't remember which one. Digital cameras didn't produce nice images until the Nikon D3 in 2007. It's also composed poorly and about a foot out of focus. It was shot with the aperture at f/5 which allowed all that crappy background to stay in focus. Now I shoot pretty much wide open to throw the background out of focus.)  

Vietnam Vets

William "Easy" Smith, left, hugs his friend Luther Ingram near the Vietnam Veteran's Memorial on Veteran's Day. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)

This gentleman arrived with a busload of vets at the WWII memorial and walked through a crowd with a lot of handshakes and cheering. I don't have a story with this, I just think he has a cool look with the shades and jean jacket.  

WWII vets

U.S. Navy World War II veteran Rocky Tankersley, 92, from Kansas City, Mo., greets youngsters who were on hand to welcome Honor Flight vets to the World War II Memorial on Veterans Day. (Photo By Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call File Photo)