Local photographer gives priceless gift to veterans

Posted at 5:43 PM, Nov 11, 2016
and last updated 2016-11-11 20:08:29-05

Two and a half years ago, an Independence photographer started the Kansas City Veterans Portrait Project. 

John Howe, who is also an Independence police sergeant, said his grandfather is his inspiration. 

"My grandpa was actually taken captive at Battle of the Bulge," said Howe. "He was held captive for 101 days." 

His grandfather died when Howe was just 12 years old. 

"I thought, this is it! When these people die all the information is gone in their heads," he said. 

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So he set out to meet with as many veterans in the Kansas City area as he could. He's photographed more than 80 veterans; about 20 of them served in WWII. 

"There's so much to be said about their age and the things they've been through and the things they've overcome," said Howe. "I really like capturing their images and being able to share it with their families. I've had several times that after I photographed them, about 6 months later that veteran died and that was the last portrait the family had of them. They're happy in it and smiling, and it's worth it." 

Right now, it's a self-funded project. He uses his days off to photograph the veterans and uses a GoPro to record their stories. Then a few weeks later he meets with them again to give them a mounted print. 

"It's strange to me," said Julius Colvin, a WWII veteran, after his photography session. "I've never had my picture taken so much!" 

WWII veteran Julius Colvin

Colvin was drafted to the Army in 1942. He survived the Battle of the Bulge and now lives with the memories left behind. 

"They gave me a rifle and I didn't prove to be very good at that," said Colvin. "They finally said you're going to medics." 

"The one day in that aid station we had 95 wounded, some passed away," he remembered. "That was the worst. One of my buddies was with a group as an aid man. He stepped on a foot mine and it blew his leg off. I was taking care of him, going through the aid station. I was trying to wrap it up and he looked up and said, 'I owe you 20 bucks!' I said, 'Man forget that. You have more problems than I have.' After it was all over, my wife wrote to me that some guy sent us a letter from the east coast with a 20 dollar bill in it." 

Right now, the Kansas City Veterans Project is looking for WWII and Korean War veterans who would like to have their portrait taken and their story shared. If you know of someone, contact John Howe by email:

To look at some more of his photos check out the Kansas City Veterans Portrait Project Facebook page. He's working on starting a website to help share the stories of the heroic men and women.



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