As humble as military men and women can be, their memories and service are often forgotten if not survived by their close family and friends who knew them well. This was the reality till Jeffrey Rease, a normal Alabama man with a passion for photography decided to do something about it.

Serving in any military branch is an honor not everybody gets to experience. US Military veterans often serve out of love for their country and their countrymen; many do not expect anything in return. So when they get back home after a tour of duty, most citizens wouldn’t normally know about their service and what honor they’ve brought back with them.

Meet Jeffrey Rease of Alabama

Alabama local Jeffrey "Jeff" Rease, professional photographer and pioneer of Portraits of Honor (Jeffrey Rease Official Website)
Jeffrey “Jeff” Rease, professional photographer and pioneer of Portraits of Honor (Jeffrey Rease Official Website)

Good old Jeffrey Rease. A Birmingham local, Jeffrey was an Alabama man passionate about photography. In fact, he is a full-time portrait and wedding photographer that has extensive experience with everything to do with arts and design.

Jeffrey doesn’t have any personal military background. However, his family did serve in the military. This led him to wonder more about his family background with the armed forces. As it turns out, one of his uncles served in World War II onboard an unknown military vessel when a German torpedo destroyed it. More so, his dad was a paratrooper way back in the Korean War.

He didn’t know a lot about the military, but he was fueled by his curiosity to push on and learn more about the remaining survivors and war heroes of WWII.

His home state of Alabama sure is filled with military bases like the Maxwell Gunter Air Force Base in Montgomery and the Fort Rucker Army Base in Dale, they even have a battleship museum in Mobile, so it wasn’t uncommon to see uniformed military personnel and war veterans around.

Honoring WWII Vets The Alabama Way

Driven and inspired by the veterans in his area, along with a fellow photographer from England who took photos of veterans as well, he decided to start photographing US military veterans in 2019 as he wanted to preserve their memories and heroism. This was where the inspiration really struck him to start his project, “Portraits of Honor.”

How did he do it? Being the photographer he is, he first scoured his own state and the states surrounding Alabama with his trusty Nikon D850. His very first photograph features Retired Col. Carl Cooper. He enlisted in 1942 and was awarded the Legion of Merit medal, an award both combat and non-combat military personnel may obtain through outstanding service in the armed forces. Cooper fought in the Battle of Okinawa, the Korean War, and the Vietnam War. He was an outstanding 99 years old at the time his photo taken, as you can see below! Sadly, Col. Cooper had passed away last September 21, 2021. He was 101 years old.

He was hooked with their stories and learning more about the historical details that most history books tend to leave out, the daily life of the armed forces during service. Extremely inspired by the first photo, he went on to capture hundreds of photos of World War II veterans from ages 93 to 104, and he has no plans to stop!

How’s The Project Doing?

Today, he continues with his project, honoring WWII veterans with his work. His project did get derailed temporarily because of the COVID-19 pandemic that hit late 2019, but of course, he has made plans to keep going once it’s safe to go out again.

The project has now extended to featuring the WWII vets’ stories on his website and his YouTube channel both through videos and blogs. Best of all, he does this all free of charge. Now that’s what you can call Southern hospitality!