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World War II vets in San Clemente spend Veterans Day distributing handmade Buddy Poppies to symbolize their solidarity, brotherhood and sacrifice while recalling experiences of their service.

By DAVID BRO / SPECIAL TO THE REGISTER

SAN CLEMENTE -(CA)- Army veteran Sam Thorndyke, 85, of San Clemente is on a mission. He’s pretty sure that if he lives to be 105 he’ll be the oldest living veteran of World War II’s Pacific theater.

On Friday, Thorndyke, a member of San Clemente’s Veterans of Foreign Wars Post 7142, sat with fellow Army WWII veteran George Key, great-great-grandson of “Star-Spangled Banner” author Francis Scott Key, in front of the Ralphs supermarket off Camino de los Mares in San Clemente to hand out Buddy Poppies in honor of Veterans Day.  Buddy Poppies are lapel decorations made by vets as a symbol of solidarity and brotherhood and a remembrance of their sacrifice.

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Judy Brown of San Clemente accepts a Buddy Poppy from World War II veterans George Key, right, and Sam Thorndyke on Veterans Day. “We are so proud of our veterans,” Brown said.
DAVID BRO, FOR THE ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER

WHERE TO GET A BUDDY POPPY

VFW Post 7142 is handing out Buddy Poppies on Friday and Saturday outside San Clemente’s two Albertsons supermarkets on Avenida Pico and the Ralphs and Stater Bros. stores on Camino de los Mares.

Donations will be accepted to support five veterans-related charities.

For more information, call George Key at 949-498-2489.

“The best part about this is the stories we get to share with people. We hear some great stories,” said Key, who served as an engineer and participated in five campaigns across Europe after landing at Omaha Beach in France.

Capistrano Beach resident Katherine Sgambellone said her grandfather fought as a German soldier in the muddy trenches of Europe during World War I.  She held her hands to her face and covered her mouth, illustrating how her grandfather told her is the best way to light a cigarette on a battlefield without getting shot. Opposing snipers would see the lighted end and shoot for its glow, she said.

The veterans around her nodded in agreement.

Thorndyke was an infantryman from 1944 to 1946 and was awarded the Bronze Star for his actions during the campaign to liberate the Philippines  from Japanese control.

Thorndyke recalled being on the Philippine island of Luzon when his captain asked for volunteers as scouts to lead a patrol through the jungle.  A buddy of his put his hand up.

His buddy was shot in the neck during the patrol, though the bullet went through without causing major damage and left just two little scars.

“Don’t ever volunteer,” Thorndyke told the soldier upon his return.

Telling the story Friday, he shared a laugh with Key when someone suggested Thorndyke should have given the advice before his friend volunteered.

Thorndyke held up his hands and smiled. “You just have to accept your fate and hope for the best,” he said.

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Ruaridh (Rory) Stewart (shown at left photographing a car at the recent LA Car show), 37, of Laguna Niguel, knows the business of what makes photos work.  He describes a photo of a Vietcong guerrilla captured by US troops photographed by Philip Jones Griffiths, a Welsh photojournalist from the 60’s and 70’s.

 

“Griffiths set the standard for what makes a news photo…how he shot events, no one had done before, his approach…everything…students of photography should begin with his books and photos, he started it all really…”

 

 

Griffiths published Vietnam INC, and the book had major influence on American perceptions of the war and became a classic of photojournalism with astounding and compelling images.  All qualities that Zuma Press, a full service photo agency based in Dana Point and where Stewart works as News Director, look for when they license photos for magazines like Time, Newsweek and National Geographic. 

 

 

This image conveys the tragedy that is war, there are multiple elements to his images that cause the viewer to really pause and look…”

 

Stewart, born in Perthshire, Scotland in 1971 is tall, lean and serious, but not without a certain kindness in his gaze.  He pauses between points and reflects, seemingly editing his words one last time, just before telling you what he thinks.  It’s his thoughts on photography and how he got started that you realize his greatest trait must be his innate compassion.

 

“I was always taking photos when I was young and while traveling in India over the summer in 1993, I was doing travel photos, I knew it was what I wanted to do, something just clicked …I traveled all over Asia and it was the people…taking pictures of the people….you just have to go for it and make it work and that’s what I did…”

 

Stewart’s work at Zuma Press as News Director is what you might think at first to be the standard faire of deadlines, fact checking and the eenie, meenie, miny, mo of where to send which photo to which publication.  Consider that Stewart deals with over 700 contract photographers from all over the world and in every possible situation at any one time and delivers to hundreds of magazines worldwide; there is no doubt that many of the photos you see in your favorite magazines, he sees first.

 

It wasn’t too long ago that Stewart was looking through the lens and seeing it all first hand.  In 2000 he was selected as Photographer of the Year by the Hong Kong Press for a photo that depicts children praying at an assembly after their Principal has just shared that the Chinese takeover in Hong Kong would no longer allow English to be taught.  Stewart had the opportunity to work for several newspapers and magazines in Asia and traveled extensively on assignments that included sports, politics and earthquakes. 

 

 

“In 1999 I was assigned to cover the aftermath of the earthquake in Taiwan where over 2000 people died…the devastation was impressive….to see people in those conditions was humbling…”

 

Stewart had the unique nuts and bolts experience of literally working through the change from film to digital.  Assigned to cover the fall of  President Suharto of Indonesia in the spring of 1998, he was given a digital camera to take with him along with his equipment for film; that first digital camera cost more than $10,000 dollars and had less than 2 megapixels; soccer moms would scoff at anything less than 6 megapixels today.

 

“We would shoot maybe 5 rolls a day of the rioting and protests and then return to the hotel room to process the film in the bathroom and use the hotel hair dryer to dry the negatives….eventually I ran out of chemical and so I started using the digital camera…the image quality was terrible but it was that immediate result and even more I appreciated the speed”

 

Stewart explains that after returning to the hotel and developing the film it still took hours to edit the photos down to two or three that would get sent out to the paper.  He details the methodic orgy of using the bathroom as a darkroom, developing in the bathtub, drying the negatives on the shower rod with the hair dryer, scanning the negatives into the computer, getting a dependable international phone line, usually splicing the lines himself and then spending 3 hours to download 3 images.  The confusion, chaos and imminent collapse of President Suharto’s regime made for excellent and emotionally charged photos but wasn’t the safest spot to be.

 

“ I was shooting from behind a crowd, towards the government troops…I was getting the rioters throwing rocks when the soldiers began to shoot into the crowd…it all broke loose at that point…there was a wave of people…everyone was scattering, except for me…at one point I looked out over the top of my camera….in front of me just 10 feet away was a soldier…he was franticly trying to pull out his pistol from its holster but he had forgotten the little leather strap that held it in…he kept trying to get it out and then he was working on the strap…it just wouldn’t come…I just stood there watching until a hand from behind pulled me out…an Indonesian photographer I think…I don’t know what would have happened…”

 

Stewart is in the office now mostly and likes it better that way because now he can pick the assignments he wants to do and at the end of the day he goes home to Laguna Niguel, his wife, Sylvia and his little girl, Ailee, 18 months.

 

Stewart has had an ongoing assignment at US military installations photographing, the  Army as they train and prepare for duty in Iraq.  It keeps him close to home, it’s safer and it’s an easier commute but it’s not the only thing that’s easy.

 

 

 

 “When we first got the digital stuff…the image quality was not that good and the batteries were huge and we had to carry extra batteries where ever we went…now the cameras are just phenomenal…the point and shoot cameras that we have today take better pictures than what I had in Indonesia…”

 

Stewart feels that with the quality of digital cameras today, there is no reason why a reasonably skilled photographer couldn’t take a shot where you would be unable to tell if it were color film or not; digital only keeps getting better every day.

 

“There are some great digital cameras out there right now but, you know, I still have all my film cameras…”

 

Stewart knows what he’s doing; he’ll make it work out.

 

Ruaridh Stewart:

http://www.ruaridhstewart.com/

 

Philip Jones Griffiths:

 

http://www.magnumphotos.com/Archive/C.aspx?VP=XSpecific_MAG.PhotographerDetail_VPage&l1=0&pid=2K7O3R149GCO&nm=Philip%20Jones%20Griffiths

 

http://www.nytimes.com/2008/03/20/arts/design/20griffiths.html?scp=3&sq=philip%20jone%20griffiths&st=cse

 

http://www.nytimes.com/slideshow/2008/03/19/arts/20080320_GRIFFITHS_SLIDESHOW_index.html?scp=4&sq=philip%20jone%20griffiths&st=cse

 

http://www.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,905816,00.html

 Zuma Reportage:

http://www.zreportage.com/

  

 

 

 

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