Too many months ago while at NIC I got a chance to spend some time talking to Patricia Will about Belmont Village and her view of the senior living sector. Part of that conversation included what has become one of my standard questions for senior living leaders:
What are you doing that is unique or cool?
She immediately pointed me in the direction of their “American Heroes Gallery.” It is a really cool story.
How It All Began
Back in 2008 Thomas Sanders was a photography student and he approached Belmont Village about doing a photo essay of World War II veterans for a college project. As is sometimes the case when someone has a really brilliant idea this one project turned into an important meaningful celebration of the lives of Belmont Village senior living residents who served the United States putting their lives on-hold and at risk.
The photos that Thomas took are bold, honest and insightful. They have been taken in a way that is respectful of both their current place in life and what they experienced in wartime. In many cases Sanders has been able to incorporate wartime artifacts belonging to residents to dramatically portray these individuals.
You will now find a Heroes Gallery in each of the 17 Belmont Village communities.
The World War II generation is often referred to as “The Silent Generation” for good reason. They just lived their lives, going to work and raising their families will little to no fanfare. When a time of war came along they did their duty in the same fashion. It was a necessary, difficult and risky job that needed to be done. They neither celebrated nor bemoaned doing what needed to be done. When the war was over they came back to their old lives, picking up where they left off.
Most returning soldiers rarely, if ever, talked about what they had done. They had done difficult things; they had participated in the taking of lives to protect the people they loved. For many of these residents, the taking of these pictures opened a floodgate of stories about their wartime experiences. They were finally able to tell stories they had never told to anyone, not even, or perhaps especially, not their families. It turned into a powerful wonderful experience.
I am pleased to be able to share a small collection of these photographs here. In addition, Welcome Books has published Sanders’ veterans’ portfolio in a book titled Last Good War, Faces and Voices of World War II. You can purchase this book at Amazon.com or other booksellers.