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A Friend “Never Forgotten”

31 Dec

A Friend “Never Forgotten”

A Nam Era Story, Told at The Wall

May 24, 2014

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Words by:     Richard Yaras and
                     J. Michael Johnson
                     Copyrighted 2014

“A Friend “Never Forgotten”

The words of Richard M Yaras and my photos tell the story of what happened in front of the Wall (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) during Rolling Thunder XXVII.

Approximately 9:50 am, Saturday morning May 24, 2014, I walked into the depth and quietness of the Wall from the west entrance, I had no idea that when I photographed a tall unknown veteran in red hat, black jacket and boots visiting names on the Wall, that I would once again photograph this “Nam Era” veteran, shaking hands with Richard Yaras, a biker who had ridden his Harley almost a 1000’s miles to place a pair of paratrooper’s boots down at Panel 16E in front of a friend’s name, now frozen forever in the black granite of the Wall.

After returning home from Rolling Thunder, I received the following e-mail from Richard Yaras, which explains in his own words, the events I photographed that Saturday morning at the Wall.                            by J. Michael Johnson

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Paratrooper Boots, My Story
Fri, May 30, 2014 9:40 pm

From: RICHARD YARAS  yaras7280@gmail.com
to:  jmjphoto@aol.com

I always wanted to ride my Harley to the Vietnam Memorial Wall in Washington D.C. This year I was lucky enough to be invited to ride with the members of our local Rolling Thunder chapter 4 from Jacksonville Fl.

I bought my first Harley, a 1966 XLCH in September of 1965. When Robert Michael Cartwright, called Mike by family and friends, came home on leave before being deployed to Vietnam we were able to spend time together riding our bikes and raising a little hell. Before he left for Nam he gave me his jump boots to wear when I rode. I have kept those boots on display in my den for 48 years. I was torn over keeping the boots or returning them to Mike. My decision was to return them to Mike. As I placed them at the Wall a member of Rolling Thunder was standing beside me. Someone I didn’t know. He extended his hand to me and gave me a hug. Then he asked me if I would like a pin to place with the boots. After I attached the pin to the note I had put inside the boots he gave me another one to wear on my vest. That’s what you call Brotherhood and that’s what the ride to the wall is all about.                   Sincerely  Richard M Yaras

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“The Nam Era: Never Forgotten”

25 Dec

“The Nam Era: Never Forgotten
by J. Michael Johnson

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“The Nam Era: Never Forgotten”

“The Nam Era: Never Forgotten” exhibit
opened June 25th and continued through August 15, 2013
at the Pickens County Museum of Art and History 

Artist Statement:

“The Nam Era: Never Forgotten”, is a veterans photo tribute I started in 1997 at “The Wall” (The Vietnam Veterans Memorial) in Washington, DC, which shows us “Freedom Is Not Free”, as another part of my photojournalist journey into the motorcycle lifestyle that is so often shied away from by so many civilians and journalists.

The early Sunday morning walks into the depth and quietness of “The Wall” lets me digital capture veterans visiting names on “The Wall” that represents the real “Human Cost of Freedom”. The names of young boys and girls growing up to fast, fighting a war on foreign soils and in so many cases giving their lives fighting for American freedom in a land that some say God forgot, “Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia”. These digital images shows friends and family members touching loved ones names on “The Wall” and getting a rubbing of the name so they can remember, honor and keep their loved ones memory alive and remind us that we still have POW-MIA’s, in “Vietnam”. Part of this exhibit is still in my head because I had to make a decisions when to let an award winning image go because a Vietnam vet’s personal privacy was much more important than a photo.

Being a freelance journalist for Easyriders magazine allows me to journey to “The Wall” to meet, photograph and document stories told by Vietnam Veterans their friends, families and veterans of other wars each Memorial Day weekend during Rolling Thunder events in Washington DC .

I am traditionally focused on the Harley-Davidson motorcycles and their riders as they cruise up and down Daytona’s Main Street. But today, I am pleased to present this selections of “The Nam Era: Never Forgotten”, digital prints for your viewing pleasure. Remember; thank a veteran for your freedom.                                           J. Michael Johnson

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