The hero pic. A stoic photograph of you in uniform standing in front of the flag. Why? In case you get killed and they can hang your shot on the wall with the other heroes. Sure, he died for a good cause, the ninth year of providing the warm blanket of freedom to 300 million people by supporting a narco-trafficking family that were busboys in Maryland a decade ago.
Back in the states, it was a solemn affair. I fixed my eyes on the camera lens and tried not to blink. I was going to make a respectable face beyond the grave if the photo ever needed to be hung.
Then a long trip to Asia, settling in, and getting used to a small living arrangement and constant work hours. The LT lost the camera, so everyone in the company had to take another hero photo. I didn't care as much this time around, repetition robbing the solemnity from the occasion.
A month later: "Go to the CP, you need to take another hero picture. Sergeant so and so lost the memory card on the camera."
I stood in front of the flag like some criminal too familiar with the mugshot. I gave a toothy grin, unzipped my blouse a few inches and slid a hand into the breast. I thought it looked damned good and added a touch of history and flair to the whole grim business, but the unsmiling sergeant photographer shared none of my enthusiasm. "Stop screwing around, do you want the Division to think you were some kind of jackass?"
"First, I don't think I'll care too much what people will think if this picture ever gets framed, and second, I'll be back in a few weeks after you realize you're pointing the camera the wrong way."
I get a lot of counseling statements.