Thursday, September 14, 2006

Bloody, But Unbowed

Sergeant Todd Herman USMC

At the moment I'm working on a series of portraits of Marines currently undergoing intense medical care and rehabilitation. These images are the result of visits back in mid-August to both Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals. The project, as it has evolved, will result in four portraits, each depicting a different type of wound. Hopefully they will round out the comprehensive combat art collection exhibit that will grace the grand opening of the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Our first day was spent at Bethesda, and Sergeant Herman was the Marine NCO-in-charge conducting the morning formation. He quickly organized the guys willing to be sketched and photographed, and identified a quiet well lit space to use as a make-shift studio. Sergeant Herman has been enduring almost two years of multiple facial reconstruction surgeries.

We couldn't have crossed paths with more fearless individual. I remember studying his face as I was doing my initial "you guys are still in the fight and we want to capture your experiences" orientation speech. What really, in hindsight, drew my eye to him was his eyes and the light that rose up in them as I did my little mission brief. This NCO clued in and went to work immediately implementing a plan to accomplish my commander's intent.

In the final analysis what made our trip a success was the fearless and unvarnished emotional availabilty of these Marines. Sergeant Herman instinctively knew that the history of the War on Terrorism was now written in the bold and unmistakeable scars on his face and head, and was unashamed. Let me also go so far as to say that in these scars (which he ryely assured us has not interfered with his romantic life) are writ great words of hope and glad promise for all Americans. At the end of the day our nation, despite the ephemeralilty and expedience that seem to permeate present times, still produces Sergeant Hermans.....folks imbued with timeless values, courage and endurance.

Herman is the personification of William Ernest Henley's poem Invictus, which I leave you with.

OUT of the night that covers me,

Black as the Pit from pole to pole,

I thank whatever gods may be

For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance

I have not winced nor cried aloud.

Under the bludgeonings of chance

My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears

Looms but the Horror of the shade,

And yet the menace of the years

Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,

How charged with punishments the scroll,

I am the master of my fate:

I am the captain of my soul.


Anonymous said...

There is nothing sexier than a man with the scars that prove he is just that - a man.

Donna, LosOsos, CA said...

I know what you are describing. I recently had the privilege of spending time with 14 wounded troops, 9 of them were amputees. I am forever awed and humbled by these men.Hard to describe. The poem does a good job. I have to be honest though, and I don't know if you are experiencing the same thing, but these were also some of the most fun people I have ever been around. They are truly national treasures, and I am so grateful the Marine honoring our wounded through your art.God bless you.

Cpl M said...

Great work, sir. I really enjoy the simple black and white sketches you've produced. The stories behind them makes it all that more impressive.

Mamabear said...

Your spirit and words warm my soul, thanx for all you are and all that you do.

Sooooo proud of our military.

What a country!

Maggie45 said...

You have captured his determination. I am constantly in awe of these men and women....and of you also. Special Missions.

Jack Herman said...

To try and quote Capt Sean Quinlan, the then new CO of 2nd Marine Division, Light Armored Reconnaissance 'Delta Co':

"Who is this Corporal Todd Herman ? We need to make a movie about this ! Too much bad news in the media today !"

This was in response to witnessing and Anomaly along with his wife and myself at a party in Todd's honor. We were at 2nd LAR Delta's favorite watering hole in Jacksonville outside of Camp LeJeune. My response was, "I don't know who he is ?"

Todd was honored with a plaque with a very flattering message upon it, and his second Navy/Marine Achievement Medal.

Todd's responsibility as Technician/Mechanic to maintain the operational efficiency of four Light Armored Vehicles (LAV's).
Todd maintained a minimum of 98% efficiency for his least LAV which was the highest or one of the highest ratings recorded. It was the second time Todd had achieved this pinnacle. His first was in OIF.

It was this recognition by the 'Delta Co' Marines as an integral asset that kept them at their very best as a lethal mechanical menace to their adversaries, as well as offering them the most safety to perform their assignments.

There are seven (7) Marines assigned to each LAV. Four of those assignments are as scouts, two portals on each side of the top surface at the rear of the vehicle. Marines take 5 min turns of exposure as scouts on each side of the LAV. This keeps the scouts alert and helps reduce the level of risk.

Sgt Jones in charge of assigning
scout positions, said Todd volunteered for every scout assignment that was available, and got pissed off once when denied an assignment. Sgt Jones also mentioned that Todd was his best scout.

The Honorable Gordon R England Secretary of the Navy, pinned the second Achievement Medal to Todd on a visit to NNMC, Bethesda while Todd was recovering from one of his surgeries.

Sgt Todd Herman, "I don't know who he is ?"

Jack Herman (former Sgt)
'A' Co Henderson Hall
Headquarters Marine Corps
Washington, D.C.
Todd's father

Jack Herman said...

Todd had an opportunity to read my entry the other day and I have two corrections.

1)Scouts are in position more than 5 minutes at a time. He must have origionally said 45 minutes which I may have interpreted as 4 to 5 minutes, but really up to hours on end.

2)The party in Jacksonville with 2nd LAR 'Delta Co' was in honor of a worthy Sgt within the Co, but my observation as well as others, was Todd was the center of attention.

Semper Fidelis.......Jack Herman

VNTuongLai said...

You’re invited to view my video “Bat Khuat (Tap 4)” which features the song Bat Khuat that was inspired by the poem Invictus.
URL: said...

I personally thank you for this program. Unfortunately all too often, these men are just conveniently forgotten or swept under the rug.

I also thank you for alerting me to your blog, which is long overdue and excellent.

Personally I was fortunate in only having a small hole in my forhead and another fragment just above my right knee.

I am here because some unknown, scroungy, dirty, hairy butted Marine stood in front and took the abuse that I would have gotten from the Japanese without him.

Viva Los Marines, who may soon be going back to Tripoli.

Joseph Curry (Don Jose de La Mancha)