A unique photo gallery is putting the focus on veterans and their stories.
It's called "The Freedom Endeavor," and is currently on display at the Mount Vernon Recreation and Arts Center (the MARC) in Mount Vernon, Missouri.
The gallery features near life sized, black and white images of twenty three veterans as we would see them today, wearing civilian clothing, while holding a picture of themselves from when they were in the military. The gallery also includes excerpts from stories of each of the veterans experiences in the military.
Photographer and exhibit creator Steve Snyder says the gallery fulfills two purposes: to honor the veterans that served, and to raise awareness of the very same veterans that we may not even know are in our communities.
"There are so many veterans in our community, but we might not even realize who they are and we owe them all so much. They took the oath to defend us, and I think we need to recognize who they are," says Snyder.
Snyder adds that the experience has a large impact on the veterans because they aren't used to people asking to hear their stories.
"It has a great impact on the subjects because they're not used to people pulling them out of their everyday lives and saying 'Hey, I want to hear your story and I want to take your picture.'"
One such veteran that participated in the project is Corporal Stephen Davis, who served in the United States Marine Corps from 2002 to 2008. He was station in Alaska, and says that telling his story for the project has been a very positive experience.
"To have someone that wants to ask a story and wants to know about it, it's been a very freeing experience. It's been cool. To know going down the road 'Oh, I know that guy, he was in the Army, but not only in the Army, he did this, this and this'...it helps put a face and a name to such a commitment to our country," Davis says.
A reception for the photo gallery was held today to give people from the Mount Vernon community the chance to see the images, read the stories, and interact with some of the veterans that participated in the project. Davis says that this interaction opens up new lines of communication between community members and veterans when there may not be interaction otherwise
"This is not just an exhibit. For a veteran myself, it's an opportunity to get your story out but then to see how the story impacts people. It brings about kind of a second level of communication with people that serve in our country because we have veterans in our daily lives. It opens everybody up to be Americans together."
The gallery will be on display at the MARC through January of next year.
For more information on "The Freedom Endeavor," visit their website, freedomendeavor.org.