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Life on the Road

Long white dashes unfold before me, a familiar friend now as the road goes ever on. The hours and the miles slip by; sometimes quietly, sometimes in the chaos of gridlock. Trees, signs, and the beckoning neon glow of rest stops become a blur; my mind wandering while those long white dashes stretch out into the distance.

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New from the family archive:

Pvt. Harry S. Vandine, Camp Blanding, FL – 1944

I thought I had all the negatives from my family's collections filed, but somewhere in the myriad boxes and envelopes, this one managed to escape. Between beginning this massive archival process and moving to Syracuse, this one negative slipped from the boxes and hitchhiked in a book that eventually found it's way to my bookshelf. That's where I discovered it a few weeks ago, unharmed and waiting for my scanner.

The photo is of my maternal grandfather, Harry Vandine, sitting for his official U.S. Army portrait during basic training at Camp Blanding, Florida, in the fall of 1944. He went on to graduate from artillery school the following Spring and immediately shipped to Europe with the 99th Infantry Division for the final bloody push into Germany.

I never would have known any of that information if I hadn't found his discharge paperwork in the back of a picture frame in 2011. He never spoke of the war or what he had seen. I was surprised when, the day before I left for own basic training in 2006, he dug out his old photo album and showed me photos from his days in uniform. He still mentioned nothing of Europe, but it was great to see even that glimpse into his life in the Army when he was in the States. He passed away a few days before I graduated, and I never heard anything more about the war or his service. It took finding that paperwork and researching the unit and battle campaign information to find out where he had been—and why he never talked about it. Luckily, this photo and his old albums live on, as do the memories I have of him taking the time to tell me even a little bit about a time long past. 

I'm glad this single negative managed to work it's way to the surface for me to find. At nearly 70 years old, I love that it's still in such great condition. Here on this page it takes new life in 1's and 0's, and once I make my way back to the darkroom, I'll be sure to make a few large silver prints. Thanks for your service, Pap, your story lives on.

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