When I first met you, you shared an idea you’ve had for some time. You wanted to portray the internal battle you go through, and many others, while dealing with PTSD. I still remember how you said it. You told me sometimes you just want to rip your clothes off and be alone…to completely shed everything and unveil the underlying layer. What stuck with me most from that conversation over coffee, was the moment you said “sometimes I don’t even want to be in my own skin.” I want you to know something. In that moment, through your transparency, I watched you shed your skin. You let me see a side of you that no one else had. Thank you. I’ll never take that for granted. Helping you finally turn your vision into a very real image, after all this time, means more to me than I can put into words. You trusted me with this project, but what speaks louder is your trust in handing over these fragments of yourself. But don’t worry…they’re safe.
Have I told you lately I’m in awe? I sit back and look at you, and I’m in awe of your determination to survive. I’m in awe of the grace that surrounds you, that could only come from God. When your humvee was hit by an IED on April 7, 2007, you were the only one to survive. You rolled out that morning with your coffee, not knowing what was waiting for you. The four men sitting with you in that humvee took their last ride that day. But you made it. You are a survivor. Yet just as this image shows, you are a man. Flesh and blood. You’re enduring the fragility of life and human emotion. As a reminder? You kept your blood-stained belt from that day. And I’m so glad we included it. I think it tells a story by itself…with all those memories soaked into its fibers.
You once told me a certain song hits you pretty hard whenever you hear it. “I Drive Your Truck” by Lee Brice. So I want to tell you, that while I edited this portrait, I had it on repeat. Just playing on a loop for hours. The words became real and their weight fell on me as I sat there.
You rose from the ashes.
“Eighty-Nine Cents in the ash tray
Half empty bottle of Gatorade rolling in the floorboard
That dirty Braves cap on the dash
Dog tags hangin’ from the rear view…
People got their ways of coping
Oh, and I’ve got mine
I drive your truck
I roll every window down
And I burn up
Every back road in this town
I find a field, I tear it up
Til all the pain’s a cloud of dust
Yeah, sometimes I drive your truck
And momma asked me this morning
If I’d been by your grave
But that flag and stone ain’t where I feel you anyway
I drive your truck…”