Sunday, December 27, 2015

Raymond Laffey 

82 years old
Born in 1932 in Armstrong Iowa
Currently living in Armstrong Iowa
U.S. Navy Korean War Veteran

Raymond Laffy was about 20 years old when, in 1952, he and three of his buddies from Armstrong, Iowa, joined the military at the same time. Raymond headed to the U.S. Navy, eventually spending four-years of wartime sea duty as a Yeoman on several Navy cargo and tanker ships. “I did mostly clerical work,” he remembers of his time serving our country.

“We went over (to Korea) on the World War II-vintage ARG-4, USS Tutuila (originally laid down in 1943 as the Arthur P. Gorman), a troop transport ship. Even though we didn't see any conflict,” Laffey recalls, “I did my duty to serve my country. Some was good and some was not so good.”

Once back stateside after the war, Laffey returned to his hometown, finding work in a few different jobs. “I worked mostly as a grocery store clerk in Armstrong, he says. “First at the B&M, then the D&M (“Don and Mel”) Food Market on Main Street. He worked with his brother who had purchased the store. Laffey has stayed in town ever since. “I still have family living in Armstrong,” he says.

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Virgil Bonner

Age 89
Born 1926 in Iowa City Iowa
Currently living in Estherville, IA
U.S. Army World War II and Korean War Veteran

Iowa native Virgil Bonner was prepared to fight in World War II after being drafted into the U.S. Army December 20, 1944. But, after spending 15 weeks in infantry training, a 10 day furlough home, a five day troop train ride to California and 23 days in transit aboard a troop transport ship headed to the Philippines, Bonner finally arrived in Manila Harbor two weeks before the war ended. He never got to fight in that war. “We all felt good about that,” he remembers. “We were ready for an invasion of Japan, when the A-bomb was dropped and Japan surrendered.”

Bonner did get to witness history aboard the USS Missouri in Tokyo Bay September 2, 1945 with U.S. General of the Army Douglas Mac Arthur, as the Commander in the Southwest Pacific, MacArthur accepted the surrender of Japan on behalf of the Allied Powers.

At the age of 19, Bonner reenlisted for a three-year stint in the U.S. Army later in 1945. “You could pick your branch of service,” he recalled, so he picked the Transportation Corps. “I wanted to go to Europe,” he said, but Bonner was shipped out to Oakland, CA. and was picked by his superiors to become a member of the Army's Military Police. “I became a MP patrolling the Oakland Pier,” he said. Eventually, the young MP headed to Germany with the 524th MP battalion stationed in Austria guarding railroad trains moving to and from Russia.

After his honorable discharge in 1948 at Fort Dix, New Jersey, Bonner joined the U.S. Army Reserves. In September of 1950, Bonner remembers, he was called up to fight in the Korean War with the 430th Engineer Battalion, a National Guard unit, he said. Bonner first landed in Japan, where he stayed for a month before heading to Korea.

He ended his military career in 1954.

Story and photo © 2015 Joseph Kreiss Photography

Friday, November 20, 2015

Eugene “John” Manson

90 years old
Born in 1924 in Battle Creek, Iowa
Currently living in Armstrong, Iowa
U.S. Navy World War II Veteran

World War II had been raging for over two years, when Eugene Manson joined the U.S. Navy right out of high school. Following basic training and a stint at the Navy's radar school in Bremerton, Washington, Manson boarded the newly commissioned aircraft carrier USS Shipley Bay (CVE-85) as a 3rd Class Radarman. Manson, along with 860 officers and enlisted shipmates, and 28 aircraft headed to the Pacific Theater ready for battle against the Japanese forces.

“We were right there in the middle of it,” Manson remembered. The Casablanca-class escort carrier was positioned off the coast of Okinawa for the assault on the island. She remained there, except for a brief trip to Guam for repairs, between April and June 1945, while her planes flew hundreds of strikes in the Okinawa offensive. “Between May 7 and May 17 1945, our planes and pilots flew 352 combat missions,” Manson boasts.
“I was very happy during my time in the Navy, but I was in long enough and wanted out,” he said. “They should have dropped the (atomic) bomb a lot sooner.” Manson was honorably discharged from the Navy on March 11, 1946 and headed back to Iowa. “I'm very proud of the fact I was in (the war) to help us stay free.”

After playing a little baseball and basketball for Westmar College in Le Mars, IA, Manson returned to Ringstead, IA in 1946 to begin his 38 year teaching and coaching career at the old Ringsted High School. “It was a good thing I was winning ball games, or they'd kicked me out a lot sooner,” the Navy veteran joked.

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Arven Fritz

Age: 89
Born in 1926 near Fairmont, MN
Now lives in Armstrong, Iowa
U.S. Army World War II Veteran

It was near the end of World War II when Arven Fritz, a 19 year old farm boy from rural Fairmont, was drafted into the U.S. Army in 1945 to fight for his country. He headed to Fort Knox, Ky. For basic training before shipping out to Frankfurt, Germany with the Army's 381st Military Police.

“I was a shift leader in a railroad freight yard, protecting military shipments and personnel,” Fritz remembers. He served nine months overseas as a MP before being discharged once the war was over, coming back home to Minnesota.

Once home, Fritz returned to farming for about a year before getting into the music business, selling and teaching the accordion. “ I took lessons when I was around 10 or 11 years old and played a little bit when I was in Germany,” he said. Fritz was a fixture in the Fairmont area during those post war years. He remembers teaching students the accordion in a small room at a piano store located in the Fairmont Odd Fellows Hall off Highway 15.

Fritz continues to have a positive of his time in the service. “When I was in Germany, it was all good memories,” he said. “That was a good place to be.”

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Delbert Petersen

Age 82
Born in 1932 in Graettinger, Iowa on the family farm
Now lives in Esterville, IA.
U.S. Army Korean War Veteran

The U.S. involvement in the Korean War was still in full swing in March of 1953 when 20 year-old Delbert Petersen was drafted and entered the U.S. Army. Following 12-weeks of basic training, the Iowa farm boy shipped out to Korea and was attached to the U.S. Air Force at Osan Air Base “K55 Airstrip” in South Korea. “As guys were being rotated out, they needed replacements,” Petersen recalls. “So I became a cook.”

The truce was signed in late July of 1953 bringing to an end the 37-month war in Korea. Petersen was sent to two weeks of CBR (chemical, biological, radiological) training in October of that year. “We got on a bus and went through Hiroshima, Japan and stood right where the (atomic) bomb dropped,” he remembers.

Last year, Petersen had the opportunity to revisit Korea along with other members of the Korea Veterans Association. It was a meaningful journey for Petersen. “You really got to see how that country had changed from the way it was during the war to what it is today.”

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Paul “Jed” Stebritz

Age 82
Born 1933 in Algona, Iowa
Currently lives in Armstrong, IA

Nineteen-year-old Paul “Jed” Stebritz answered the call of duty for his country in January 1953 and joined the U.S. Army. The Korean War was raging in the Pacific, but after completing basic training, Jed found himself shipping out to Austria and Germany to contribute to the war effort.

He remembers missing home and his family and friends during his time in the service, but looking back, he says he wouldn't have done anything different. The most important lesson Jed learned while in the Army “was how to be organized.”

After serving his stint, Jed was honorably discharged on January 26, 1956. But his commitment to the Armed Services didn't stop there. He continued to contribute his time as a member of Weiby-Johnson Post 5232 in Armstrong, Iowa, having served as Post Commander, among other duties. In the past he was known to put on his old Army uniform and attend the funerals of his fellow veterans that had passed. Jed still keeps in touch with his close “Army Buddy,” Dale Hixson of Waterloo, IA.

Family members helped contribute information to Jed's story.
Image and story © 2015 Joseph Kreiss Photography
Find us on Facebook- "Portrait of a Veteran"

Monday, November 9, 2015

Robert Reed

Age 94
Born 1921 in Grundy Center, Iowa
Now lives in Armstrong, IA.
U.S. Army World War II Veteran

Reed entered the U.S. Army in 1942 at the age of 18 years old. What his eyes would see during his deployment to the Pacific War Theater could never have been imaged at his young age.

As a member of the Army's 32nd Infantry, he quickly earned the rank of Battalion Sgt. Major before shipping over seas. He saw action in New Guinea and the Philippines, among other small islands, and was preparing to invade Japan when Japanese General Yamashita surrendered to the the U.S. Army's 32rd Infantry on Sept. 2nd, 1945. “They saved a lot of lives because of that,” Reeds recalled.

Reed was awarded the Bronze Star by General Robert McBride Jr. and had made Master Sgt. rank before heading back stateside in 1946. He joined up with his dad to help with the family's International Harvester dealership in Ringsted, Ia, until 1980, when he had to get out due to health reasons.

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Ormal E. Guinn

Born in 1926 in Armstrong, Iowa
Currently living in Armstrong, IA.
U.S. Navy World War II Veteran

World War II was still raging in 1944 when 17 year-old Ormal Guinn left rural northern Iowa and volunteered for the U.S. Navy. After training, he was assigned to the USS Woodford KA 86, a large cargo ship, in the Pacific Theater. “I was on her when they commissioned her, and I helped take her out of commission 22 months later,” he states. “We went all over the Pacific, through the Panama Canal carrying everything from 5,600-tons of ammunition, to a ship filled with Kansas City beer.”

What Guinn witnessed and experienced during his military duty still affects the World War II veteran, even after all these years. The memories and emotions overtake him at times.

Read more about Ormal E. Guinn's memories of serving our country at a time of war in the up-coming “Portrait of a Veteran” Photo Project book.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Donald Tietje

Age 78
Born on his family's farm in the Tenhassen Township, Martin County (Wilbert, Minnesota) in 1937
Now lives in Fairmont, Minn.
U.S. Army Korean War and Vietnam War Veteran

Donald Tietje's military career began in 1957 when, following in his late brother Herb's footsteps, Donald enlisted in the Army Reserve and was part of the government's “Federal Reserve” program. “You signed-up for a six year enlistment,” Tietje explained. “It was two years of active duty and four years in the reserves.” He was activated at the start of the Viet Nam War in 1961 and also was stationed in Korea for a year with the 181th Signal Corps depot where he worked repairing radio and electronic equipment.

Tietji is currently the Commander of the Korean War Veterans Post Chapter 254, former Minnesota American Legion 2nd District Commander (2011-2012) and a former VFW Post Commander.

You can read more about Mr. Tietje's military experience in the planned coffee table-style photo book “Portrait of a Veteran.”

Monday, October 19, 2015

John Hilgendorf

Korean War Veteran
Born on the family farm in Ormsby, MN. in 1930
Now lives in Welcome, MN.

John Hilgendorf spent the first year as a baby living in a clay block garage that his father built on the family farm. It was a humble beginning, as simple shelter, until they were able to start building a house on the property. “There weren't any buildings on the land,” Hilgendorf remembers.

At the age of 23, the Minnesota native was swore in to the U.S. Army on the day before Thanksgiving in 1952. By the first part of 1953, he was shipped overseas to fight in the Korean War. At first, Hilgendorf worked as a heavy equipment operator. “The Major asked me if I knew anything about plumbing,“ he recalls. Before long he was helping maintaining the waterworks for a prisoner of war camp.

Read more about Mr. Hilgendorf in the up-coming book “Portrait of a Veteran.”

Image and words © 2015 Joseph Kreiss Photography.

After a certain number of portraits have be amassed, and adequate funding becomes available to cover costs, the veteran's images and stories will be printed as a traveling photo gallery exhibit for public viewing. The ultimate goal is to put the images and stories into a beautiful coffee-table-style book. A copy of the book will be given to each veteran and their family. Other copies of the book will be sold to help cover costs and expenses, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, MN.

Donations of any amount can be made in the name of the veteran. An Honor Roll of Memorial Donors will be published and updated regularly on social media and in the photo book and displayed at the gallery exhibits.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Korean War Veteran Hurley Morris

Hurly Morris 

Korean War Veteran
Age 83
Born in Ceylon, MN. in 1932
Lives now in Ceylon, MN.

Minnesota native Hurly Morris spent about 13 months in Korea during that conflict. He entered the U.S. Army in 1952 when he was 20 years old, and was part of the 8th Army Signal Corps working as a field radio repairman with the 557 Signal Relay Company.

Read more about Mr. Morris in the up-coming book “Portrait of a Veteran.”

Image and words © 2015 Joseph Kreiss Photography.

- Information on the "Portrait of a Veteran Photo Project -

After a certain number of portraits have be amassed, and adequate funding becomes available to cover costs, the veteran's images and stories will be printed as a traveling photo gallery exhibit for public viewing. The ultimate goal is to put the images and stories into a beautiful coffee-table-style book. A copy of the book will be given to each veteran and their family. Other copies of the book will be sold to help cover costs and expenses, with a portion of the proceeds being donated to the Wounded Warrior Project, MN.

Donations of any amount can be made in the name of the veteran. An Honor Roll of Memorial Donors will be published and updated regularly on social media and in the photo book and displayed at the gallery exhibits.

Please contact Joseph Kreiss at email:
or message me via this page on Facebook.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Behind the Scenes

On Location

It's not fancy, but it gets the job done. My on-location equipment still fills a large travel tote, a couple of light stand bags, tripod bag and camera equipment bags. I have added stands to hold-up the back drop materials to my grip. I think I need to get one of those folding roller carts for load-in and load-out ease on my back! This was the on-location two-speedlight/softboxlighting set-up I used for the "Portrait of a Veteran" Photo Project session recently at the Valley Vue Care Center in Armstrong, IA. 

More veteran's portraits to come! If you want to financially support the "Portrait of a Veteran" Photo Project, please let me know. I'll have information on how you or your business or community group can contribute and help get the coffee table-style book published to give to these pictured veterans and their families!

Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Doing Her Part To Serve During War

Maxine Brones

Age 92
Born in Maple Hill, (Emmet County) Iowa in 1922
Now lives in Armstrong, IA
U.S. Navy Reserve WAVES World War II Veteran

With a family military history going back to World War I, Iowa native Maxine Brones also wanted to serve her country at a time of need. World War II was heating up and men were needed at the battle fronts, so Maxine put down the scissors, combs and curling irons of her beauty operator career and joined “Women Accepted for Volunteer Emergency Service,” or WAVES in April 1943. 
My Dad had been in the Navy during World War I, so he encouraged me to go in the Navy,” Maxine recalls. “My Mom didn't like it, and my brother was too young to go in, but she came to Naval Air Station Norfolk to see me.”

WAVES was established on July 30, 1942 as a wartime division of the United States Navy Reserve that consisted entirely of women. Up until this time, women were not allowed in the military. A large proportion of WAVES did clerical work, but some took positions in the aviation community, medical professions, communications, intelligence, science and technology. WAVES could not serve aboard combat ships or aircraft and initially were restricted to duty in the continental United States.

Maxine was among the first group of women to train and serve as WAVES. “I was 21 years old when my mom and sister put me on the train in Esterville, Iowa and I had orders to stay on all the way to Hunter College in New York,” where she did her basic training. “All the way there we picked up more girls. By the time we got there that train was loaded.”

Within their first year, WAVES was 27,000 women strong.
Maxine spent two and a half years in the Personnel Department at the Norfolk, Virginia Naval Air Station, before being transferred to NAS Glenview, Ill. “We relieved the men for sea duty. That was our job. I handled the honorable discharges and transfers of the boys. That was a busy time of the war,” she says.

Maxine says the most memorial part of her time spent in the Navy was the friendship and the bond between the women. “Some were rich and some were poor. It didn't matter.”

After nearly three years in WAVES, Maxine returned home to start up her own beauty shop. Maxine recalls one woman asking her why she didn't get a man while in the service. “I was there to serve my country, not get a man,” she says proudly.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Carroll L. Monsen

Age 82
Born in Rake, Iowa in 1934
Now lives in Esterville, Iowa
U.S. Army Korean War Veteran

Carroll Monsen grew up during some pretty tough times on the family farm in Iowa. “We didn't have electricity on the farm,” he remembers. “I walked behind a team of horses, mowing 20 acres of hay.”

Monsen was 19 years old when he “had a little riff with my brother and dad on the farm. The next day I went to town and volunteered for the Army.” That was in November of 1953. He would find himself in the Korean War by April of 1954, spending a year and a half there with the U.S. Army.

“I drove Jeep for the Combat Engineer's company commander,” Monsen recalls. “One day he asked if I could cook, so I became a cook.” Cooking didn't exclude him from other duties. “When the sirens went off, I grabbed a 50 caliber machine gun.”

Monsen was also in charge of taking enemy prisoners to the stockade when they were brought in from the front lines. “The commander said to me, 'If they try to escape, kill 'em.' That really stuck in my mind,” he says. “I'll tell you, that's a weird feeling to have him tell me to do that.”

Another war memory for Monsen was when he was told to take a case of hand grenades up to the hills. “The pins in those grenades had almost rusted though, making them very dangerous,” he recalls. “The commander told me to just set them out up there and leave them. He didn't want me to try and set them off. He said if I did, I would have been the first guy in orbit!”

Ranks were frozen at the time for many soldiers, including himself, so Monsen left the Army in September of 1955. “They tried to get me to re-enlist, which would give you another stripe
, but I said no way. I got a bunch of milk cows waiting for me back home.”

Story and photograph © 2015 Joseph Kreiss Photography

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Jack C. Kauffman

83 years old
Born in Rolfe, Iowa in 1932
Now lives in Swea City, Iowa
U.S. Army Korean War Veteran

The horror of being on the front lines during the heat of the Korean War- said to be the bloodiest war of all time - has haunted U.S. Army veteran Jack Kauffman his entire adult life.

“Every morning I wake up with Korea on my mind,” admits Kauffman who enlisted in the service in 1950 and was a machine gunner with the Army Combat Engineers. “I have flashbacks during the night. I can't sleep with anybody, I kick them out of bed.”

Kauffman's first wife couldn't take it and divorced the disabled war veteran. “I got married again in 1969, but my wife has to sleep in another bedroom. She tried at first, but I accidentally hurt her during one of my flashbacks,” he says. To this day, the smells of certain foods also trigger his war flashbacks. “Some foods, like squash, reminds me of when we were trying to eat on the battle field with the smells of the dead bodies.”

The Swea City, Iowa veteran continues. “I'd seen a lot of crap over there. War is terrible when it's bloody like (Korea) was on the front lines. I was on foreign duty 19 months and 10 days. I served under General MacArthur. I came home a different person.” Kauffman tries to fight back the tears, but they come anyway. “My mom noticed and said I wasn't the same boy who left home to go to war. I said, 'Mom, I'm not the same.'”

Kauffman says he contracted tuberculosis in Korea, plus suffered from back and leg injuries. He was treated in a Minneapolis hospital for the TB once he arrived back stateside. Unfortunately, his young daughter contracted the disease from him.

Kauffman says he continues on-going treatment for post-traumatic stress syndrome at the VA hospital. Yet he continues to push through and live as normal a life as he can, under the circumstances. He still gets together with his fellow vets on occasion and even attends meetings of the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 254.

© Photo and Story Joseph Kreiss

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Enlargements of the veterans are available

I've had a few people ask, so I think there might be some interest...Yes, enlargements of the veteran's portraits I've made, as part of the "Portrait of a Veteran" Photo Project, are available for sale. As soon as a photo, or photos, are posted here and on the "Portrait of a Veteran" Photo Project blog, they will also be added to my photography website where you can purchase them and have the prints shipped directly to your home or business.

Sale of the prints will help fund this project.

Please go to:

Click on the "Portfolio" link on the left side of the homepage. Open the 'Portrait of a Veteran' folder and there you will find the latest images.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Something Unexpected

Something unexpected is taking place behind the scenes. It's something I didn't even think about. Something that could happen because of the "Portrait of a Veteran" Photo Project. 

Once a veteran's portrait session is shot and "in the can," and their story and images are edited and done, I post them on this blog, of course. Plus, I post the photos on several places on Facebook: the Portrait of a Veteran page, and my Joseph Kreiss Photography page - both on FB.

My most recent post of Korean War veteran Melvin George drew an interesting comment from one excited Facebook viewer. It was a distant relative of that veteran. His niece. She said in the Facebook comment that she hadn't seen their Uncle in years! Suddenly, across the miles, families are brought back together! It's happened with others, too. Many friends and community members are all coming together to love and support our area veterans. Our HEROES! 

It's a true blessing for me to know that families and friends are getting reconnected though this photo project!

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Melvin George

Age 85
Born in Chester South Dakota in 1930
Korean War Veteran
Lifetime Member of the Disabled American Veterans
Currently lives in Fairmont, MN.

Melvin George relies on his cane and the helping hands of others to sit down and get up out of a chair these days. He's a bit bent over and takes slow, deliberate steps as he walks. He needs his hearing aides to follow a conversation. But at 85 years old, and a recipient of a Purple Heart medal during his days at war, he still has a twinkle in his eyes and sports a pretty broad infectious smile.
It was 1952, and George was 22 years-old when he was drafted into the U.S. Army. After basic training he was sent to fight in the Korean War. George was in Korea from 1953 through 1954. The Fairmont, MN. resident jokes about the way he got his Korean War “job” as a radio telephone operator. “Some of the guys were getting shipped home and the lieutenant came up to me and told me I was going to be the new radio operator. I would be the guy who called in the mortar rounds (targeting the enemy),” he remembered. “I told the lieutenant that the radio man duty was a sergeant's job. He said, 'Don't worry. You'll be a sergeant in no time.””

Another one of George's wartime duties was to guard the Korean prisoners of war that were brought in from the front lines. “I was a guard and I had to be really careful with the prisoners. You didn't know if they were going to jump you.”

After his stint in Korea, George headed back to the States and settled in Fairmont. “I wanted to be an auctioneer, but never made it,” he laments. Instead the former soldier became a finish carpenter and worked in that trade until his retirement.

George is a lifetime member of the Disabled American Veterans and a member of the Korean War Veterans Association Chapter 254. 

Photos and story © 2015 Joseph Kreiss

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Three Wars For This Marine Veteran

Richard Hall

Age 86
World War II/Korean War/Vietnam War Vet.
Born on the family farm in Dunnell, MN in 1929
Currently lives in Dunnell, MN

When you meet Richard Hall, and take just one glance at this veteran of three major wars, you know he's a U.S. Marine. He's still has that steely look in his eyes. And as they say: “Once a Marine, always a Marine.”

Hall admits his most favorite movie is the 1949 John Wayne classic Sands of Iwo Jima. “I was in that movie (as an extra).” he proudly says.

Hall was just 17 years old in 1946 when he joined the Marine Corps. World War II was just winding down, but Hall received military credit for being part of the military during that war. He trained at Camp Pendleton to operate amphibious tractors and other military vehicles. He worked moving troops and supplies on and off LST's, or Landing Ship, Tank. These ships were designed in 1942 to land battle ready tanks, vehicles, soldiers, and supplies directly onto enemy beaches. “We carried everything. We even worked with submarines,” he recalls.

His outfit also shipped out to Alaska in 1947 to guard fuel convoys crossing the isolated wilderness areas.

In 1950, at the age 21, he was called back into service to fight in Korea with the Marines with "Dog Company" 2nd Battalion, 5th Marines, 1st Division. Hall manned a 30 caliber light machine gun and spent 13 months in Korea. His company was based and fought at the “Punch Bowl” area on the Korean front lines. “We were on the front 133 days,” Hall remembers. “That was longer than any outfit in war history.”

“It was very, very cold. The wind was always blowing, the ground was frozen, and our food rations were frozen. And if there wasn't any trees or wood on that hill, you didn't have fire to cook your food.” But the aging Marine stops there with the war story reminiscing. "No way do I want to start on this," he says. You sense by looking into his eyes there are a lot of painful memories of the wars fought still locked-up in his soul.

After his tour in Korea ended in 1951, Hall stayed in the Reserves until being called up in 1964 to go to Vietnam. His MOS, or “Military Occupational Specialty,” job code in 'Nam was as a crew chief on a Marine UH-34D Sikorsky helicopter gunship, known as the “Ugly Angel” or “HUS” by fellow Leathernecks. “I flew 94 combat missions in Vietnam,” he states. The UH-34s were used extensively during the Vietnam war. (Note: A bloody combat mission of one such UH-34 gunship crew was featured in a LIFE Magazine photo essay in 1965 entitled “One Ride with Yankee Papa 13.”)

Hall ended his tour of duty in Vietnam in 1965, then was stationed in South Carolina for a while before finally heading back home to Dunnell, Minnesota. “I've been half way 'round the world, and there's no better place than Dunnell.”

Photographs by Joseph Kreiss © 2015

Saturday, September 5, 2015

Trying To Keep The Focus

The responses continue to flood in regarding the Denny Theesfield photos and my "Portrait of a Veteran" Photo Project. Thanks for all the suggestions of veterans for me to photograph. There are a lot of amazing people around the area, and our great country for that matter. I wish I had the funding, gas money, and time to travel all around Minnesota and Iowa photographing these proud Heroes.

But, this project is just getting off the ground and it went soaring beyond my wildest expectations almost from the git-go! Wow! 

The original "focus" of the "Portrait of a Veteran Photo Project was to honor the local veterans of Martin County here where I live in the Fairmont, Minnesota area. It didn't take long until I expanded the reach of the project to include north-central Iowa as well. As much as I would love to pack up my photo gear and hit the road to Nebraska parts of central Iowa, even California as suggested by many of the wonderful people responding to my posts, I have to draw-in the scope, back to the immediate areas of south-central Minnesota and north-central Iowa. 

Don't Stop Providing Veteran's Names

When you suggest a veteran, please provide their name and phone number or email address so I can get in touch with them easily. I don't have phone directories to places outside of my local phone book coverage area. And with the vast number of names received so far, it will save me much time and research if you can include the basic contact information. Also, it's much better if you can approach the veteran first about the idea, to “break the ice,” so to speak. That way they don't receive a phone call for some stranger (me) asking to come to their homes to take their photos! Lol

Plus, this bears repeating – There is absolutely NO COST OR OBLIGATION to the veteran or his family to have me come to make a portrait of them. Right now, I'm doing this all on my free time and any expenses I have, like for gasoline, or wear-and-tear on my photo equipment, are out of my pocket. I want to establish a large collection of veteran's images and share their stories with the community.

The list of submitted names of veterans grows daily...and if I had the means, I'd devote all my time to this project. Many of the older vets from WWII and Korea are passing on. Time is of the essence to document these individuals before it's too late. Many of the younger veterans wounded or suffering from the ill effects of war are also passing away much too soon, as well.

Anyway, I continue to welcome all your suggestions of veterans for the photo project. It's so cool to see the love and respect you have for the veterans in your lives. And I will try and respond to your notes and messages as soon as possible. But, at this time, I am pulling in the reigns and will only be able to contact and photograph the local area veterans within about a 30-mile radius or so.

This is going to be a long-term project, at least a year...maybe more. We'll have to see and play it by ear. I certainly don't want to leave any veteran out. I want to include as many vets as possible and as my time allows. As I stated before, my dream is to have the project underwritten so that I can spend more time making and compiling these photos. 

Free Photo Book

The end goal is to have a traveling gallery show of the portraits. I want to be able to displaying the collection enlargements at area schools, banks, VFW posts, National Guard Armory, etc. I also want to get a beautiful coffee-table-style book published of all the stories and photos of these veterans. I want a book to go to each pictured veteran's family free of cost as a keepsake to remember and honor their special veteran – Their Dad or Mom, their husband or wife, their uncle, cousin, brother....

I'm working on lining up new portrait session appointments from the list of names I've gotten so far from my Facebook 'Joseph Kreiss Photography' page. So, if I don't get back to you right away, I will. I set aside a couple mornings a week for my photography work, plus I have other clients and publications to take care of, as well as my "Day Job," too.

Thanks again from the bottom of my heart for all your love for the veterans and support for this special photography project.!!!

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Dennis “Denny” Theesfield - 

Combat Wounded Vietnam Veteran

Born in Fenton, Iowa 1945
Lives in Armstrong Iowa with his wife Sharon

 As I build my list of veterans to photograph, and complete the photo sessions and interviews, I will post the results here on this blog site. Mr. Dennis "Denny" Theesfield is my first interview for this project, and what a guy to begin this journey with! This veteran is a true local hero and cherished community treasure. His name was given to me by his niece after I posted an introduction to my 'Portrait of a Veteran' Photo Project on my Facebook page:  

What a way to start!! Response to a post on Facebook with Denny's photo has 'blown-up' my comments section. I've NEVER received so many likes, comments and shares as I have with the photo of Mr. Theesfield!

With every veteran I have the honor to interview and photograph during the duration of this photo project, I will post the story of that veteran and a selection of pictures to this blog. My hope and dream for this project is to be able to take the collection of images and stories and turn them into a beautiful coffee table style book.

Here is Denny's story and a few images I made of him at his northern Iowa farm.
Iowa native Dennis Theesfield was 24 year-old farmer working the family acreage when he was drafted into the U.S. Army July 2, 1968. They shipped him out to Fort Lewis in Washington State for basic training, then on to Fort Benning, Georgia to attend NCO school.

After a stint in Fort Polk, Louisiana, the Army sent him back to Fort Lewis to wait out his orders to ship out. He headed to Vietnam in 1969 arriving at Cam Ranh Bay with an E-6 rating. He was stationed at Củ Chi Base Camp (also known as Củ Chi Army Airfield) in the Củ Chi District northwest of Saigon in southern Vietnam. Theesfield had only been in 'Nam about three months when, on October 25th 1969, while leading a squad of soldiers with the 32 Bravo Infantry, was critically injured after a landmine exploded where he and another soldier were walking.

“We should have died,” he recalls. He and the other soldier were airlifted out, strapped into a stretcher hanging from the outside of a medi-vac helicopter and taken to a Quonset hut field hospital. “It's was just like you see on (the television show) M*A*S*H. He survived, but was left paralyzed from his injuries. He still carries a piece of the land mine's shrapnel lodged in his spine.

He received a medical discharge from the Army in May of 1970 and came back home to the farm and community he was born and raised in. Theesfield soon was back working at the local hardware store and back on the tractor, even though confined to a wheelchair. “I farmed for 24 years out of a wheel chair,” Theesfield states matter-of-factly. With the help of neighbors and friends, Theesfield devised ways to lift himself off his wheelchair and up into the tractor seat using an electric winch, chain and straps. Others helped adapt the controls of the tractor and combine to allow him to operate them without help. Nowadays, his wife Sharon and his nephews help farm and maintain the heritage 80 acres.

“I loved the service,” Theesfields says proudly. “I'd go back again right now if I could.” But, he adds, the U.S. politicians “wouldn't let us fight,” a common complaint voiced by many Vietnam veterans. “There was a lot of things we couldn't do over there. That war would have been over a lot sooner if we could have fought it they way we should have,” the wounded warrior says.

Theesfield is still actively involved with the Armstrong, Iowa Post of the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) and a member of many other veteran's groups and organizations.

Please take a moment with me to honor this local American Hero.

If you are a veteran, or know of a veteran who is from Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa, please let me know. I would like to honor as many our area vets as I can with a portrait session. The pictures will be included into a photographic image collection that I hope to turn into a book honoring those who have served... our area military heroes.

There is no cost involved for our veterans, other than an hour or so of their time.

If you, your business or community service group would like to join in to honor our local veterans and help contribute funding or in-kind services or supplies to help this project reach it's goal, please contact me.

Drop me a note on Face Book at, via this blog, or to my email address: 

All Images © 2015 Joseph Kreiss Photography

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

The Beginning of a Heart-Felt Photo Project

Thanks for stopping by this new blog to honor our military veterans from Southern Minnesota and Northern Iowa.

Things are just starting to get rolling with my "Portrait of a Veteran" photo project. I had my first photo session today with a great man and disabled Viet Nam veteran from Iowa. More on that later.

Please allow me to set the scene for this effort on my part. No, I'm not a veteran myself. My son is a veteran, having served in the U.S. Air Force as a Crew Chief on a large refueling aircraft, flying all across the globe, including duty time in the Middle East. My dad wasn't able to enter the military due to a serious injury to his back, but his brothers all served during the War. My mom witnessed first hand the attack on Pearl Harbor Hawaii that sent the United States into the fray of world war.

As a photojournalist, my job has been to record moments in the lives of people. Having worked for newspapers for many years, I have photographed many aspects of military life in the various communities I lived and worked in. As a person who is seeing retirement age looming off in the near future, I wanted to have a cause, a purpose in my photographic life for many years to come to use my cameras for the good of this area of the Midwest I now call home.

While sitting on my front porch this past July 4th, looking at one of our town's beautiful lakes, I felt like God laid the idea on me to do something for the veterans of this area using my talents as a photographer. A photographic project came to mind. A project where I would try and photograph as many local vets and service men and women as possible. Then with that amassed collection of interviews and images, put together a traveling gallery exhibit and a coffee table-style book.

I will need your help to make this all happen. I'm seeking donors and underwriters who are willing to join me in honoring our heroes and make this project happen. If you feel compelled to help, drop me a line. I would love to come to your office, business, community service club or organization, or just over a cup of coffee, and talk to you about my vision and how you can help.

I already have one donor who is committed to help fund a small part of the project, in which I'm very grateful. But more funding is needed to help cover expenses, publish a high quality book and print large photos for a traveling gallery
show. In kind donations are also welcomed.

The one thing I really need are veterans to interview and photograph. I hope that as the wheels of this project begin to turn, the momentum will start to pick up and word of mouth of the project, through this blog, Facebook, my website, and the community, will help spread the word and get more local veterans to share their stories and allow me to document them as a tribute to their service to our country.

I will offer up more details on the project in the days and weeks to come. And again, please drop me a note if you, a family member, co-worker or someone you know in the community is a veteran who have served out country. I'm keeping the area to south-central Minnesota and north-central Iowa...our local communities.

Thanks again for your interest in the "Portrait of a Veteran" Photo Project.