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In recognition of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II, Belmont Village Senior Living has commissioned former Los Angeles photographer Thomas Sanders to return to its communities to document and capture the images and stories of America’s veterans.
Sanders will visit 22 Belmont Village communities throughout the country this year to complete his work. He recently visited the Belmont Village communities of Hollywood, Westwood, Encino and Burbank. His work will be shown in the new “American Heroes: Portraits of Service”, which will open during the first week of September at all four Belmont Village Communities in Los Angeles.
Sanders and Belmont Village first partnered in 2008 as part of a mutual commitment to capturing the photographing America’s oldest veterans before they are lost — a project Sanders embarked upon as a senior in college.
“I wanted to meet and photograph older people, and when I met my first World War II veteran, I knew I had to continue to pursue these images and stories,” Sanders said. “They gave me such perspective on my life, when I compared what I was doing at 21 to where they were. I connected with Belmont Village and the company immediately saw the value of the project and got on board to honor their vets.”
Sanders photographed more than 500 veterans from all service periods, but predominantly those from the World War II-era. It resulted in an award-winning collection of his work, published in 2010 titled “The Last Good War, The Faces and Voices of WWII”.
The updated galleries will take on a new look, with different veterans. Many of the residents who were photographed have since passed away — a solemn reality of which Sanders and Belmont Village are keenly aware.
“As we approached this milestone date for the end of World War II, we felt a sense of urgency to recognize as many of those veterans as we could, along with a sense of responsibility to make sure that we honor the service people who came after. We now have residents who served in the Korean and Vietnam Wars,” said Belmont Village CMO Carlene Motto.
Sanders’ photos include personal service memorabilia provided by his subjects, and the Belmont Village galleries will also include information on their service histories. The exhibits offer a perspective that spans ranks, branches and service periods
Jack Fellin, a resident of Belmont Village of Hollywood, was one of the veterans photographed for the project. Sanders photographed Fellin with a piece of metal pipe and a photograph of himself in underwater diving gear.
“My dad and uncle served in the U.S. Navy post-World War I, so I followed in their footsteps. I spent three years in the shipyard building and repairing ships, 70 ships in 15 months,” Fellin said. “I also trained and qualified as a diver so that I could fix the underside of the ships. We had to dive underwater to replace battle damaged metal with new metal and make it water-tight.”
Reservations are requested to view the galleries. Belmont Village in Hollywood is located at 2051 N. Highland Ave. For information, visit www.belmontvillage.com.
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