Monday, October 15, 2012


Patriot. Hand beaded and stitched words: I decided to serve my country. Marine LCpl. Born July 26, 1984. Entered Jan. 12, 2004. Killed in Action Mar. 14, 2005. Xylene photo transfer on tea stained muslin    25” x 19”, unframed; 31" x 25" framed.  Click on image to enlarge.

The very worst thing that could ever happen to me would be the loss of one of my sons. Approaching this significant portrait meant meeting two wonderful people who daily live with this very worst experience. Of course we shared a very meaningful time, one I'll never forget.

Their lives were forever changed; yet, they are strong.... real role models. They brought photos that their son snapped while in Iraq. We talked about his friends; they've met many of them. We talked about their son. I took a digital photo of the official Marine picture...right through the frame...on my studio floor. Though touches of red, white, and blue were used to create the final portrait, I was careful not to overshadow his piercing eyes with color or anything else that could shift attention away from the image of a very young man, a proud solider who knowingly made a life altering decision. He decided to enter the Marines; he decided to serve his country; he knew the risks; it was his choice to make. His parents are proud of him, as they should be.

Most of the Decision Portraits are meant to reflect a specific individual but also suggest others in the same situation. This portrait really is Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Torrence. I want people to see him. He is loved and missed; his life is important. Yet, I hope people viewing this work also see through him all the others serving our country. They are important too...and each one made this decision.... to serve our country.

Below are two Associated Press articles:

Marine Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Torrence. Died: March 14, 2005.
Columbia, SC - A 20-year-old Marine from Lexington has been killed in Iraq, the Defense Department said Tuesday.

Lance Cpl. Joshua L. Torrence was killed in Iraq on Monday while fighting in Anbar province, the Defense Department said. Torrence was a crewman on an amphibious assault vehicle, a lightweight tank than can go under water, said Lt. Barry Edwards, a spokesman for the 2nd Marine Division.

Torrence was a leader who lived life with a purpose, his former high school football coach Mark Cagle said. "He is a wonderful young man who exemplifies all that's good about family, our country, God," said Cagle, who coaches at White Knoll High School. "I can't say enough good things about him.". Torrence graduated from White Knoll in 2003 and joined the Marines in January 2004. Torrence played on the first-ever White Knoll football team in 2000. He was a leader on and off the field, and always made sure to visit when he was home on leave, Cagle said. "We were looking forward to seeing him," he said. "He was supposed to have a leave in April." Cagle said Torrence was proud to serve in the Marines. "He felt there was a purpose for him being there," Cagle said. "I've got an 11-year-old son that thought Josh was unbelievable...If my son Steven grows up to be like Josh Torrence, I'd be unbelievably proud of him."

Lexington Marine is laid to rest
-Associated Press

LEXINGTON, SC - While a military jeep towed Lance Cpl. Joshua Torrence's casket into the cemetery, a half-dozen soldiers dressed in Civil War uniforms escorted him to his final resting place. Torrence, who loved being a Civil War re-enactor and dreamed of service in the miliary, was buried Thursday. A member of the 2nd Assault Amphibian Battolion, the 20-year-old Marine was killed March 14 in combat in western Iraq's Anbar province.

The old mixed with the new throughout the ceremony. A platoon of re-enactors and U.S. Marines fired successive volleys in their young comrade's honor, while Torrence's father was dressed in a Civil War-era officer uniform to honor his son. The two had participated in re-enactments of the war for the past decade. The ceremony began with re-enactors from the 3rd South Carolina Volunteer Infantry slowly marching the coffin into the church. It ended with a marine presenting Torrence's mother with the U.S. flag that had been draped over her son's casket.

"He went to serve and to sacrifice in the cause of freedom," the Rev. Bill Green said. "He knew the risks. He understood his decisions. He had the support of his family." Torrence had written to a friend to describe his joy at being a Marine, Green said. "For those who fight for it, freedom has a special flavor those protected will never know," he wrote.

Torrence also made his mark on the football field as an offensive lineman and highlights of his games were shown at his funeral. Several White Knoll High School teammates wore their football jerseys even though most of them graduated with Torrence in 2003.

Torrence is the second member of the military from Lexington to die in Iraq. Army Reserve Pfc. Thomas Caughman, also 20, died when his armored vehicle was ambushed June 9, 2004, near Baghdad. Thirty-one soldiers from South Carolina have died since the war with Iraq began two years ago.

(The White Knoll High School’s Memorial Field House in Lexington, South Carolina is named in honor of Joshua L. Torrence. Each portrait is stitched and shared via email with the "model" before being posted on the Internet. This allows the "model" to view the finished work first and to read the intended blog post before it is made public. I encourage suggestions and comments from those who have agreed to participate in this series. Of course, in this case, I was corresponding with Joshua's parents. Joshua's Dad responded this morning with the following statement: "My personal opinion of Josh's life was that he was a participant, and not a spectator. He truly loved life, and gave back as much, if not more, as he received. We miss him dearly.")

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