Proud American

Air Force master sergeant finds peace through photography

After taking almost 10,000 pictures during a deployment in Afghanistan, Air Force Master Sgt. David Long has gone from talented amateur to featured Pentagon artist.

Some of Long’s photographs are prominently displayed in the Wounded Warriors Healing Arts Exhibit at the Department of Defense’s headquarters. Being an exhibited photographer is a source of both praide and surprise for Long.

“I’m still trying to catch up that they’re actually there," he said. "It’s amazing.”

While Long takes many wide photographs of nature and landscapes, he also takes close ups with a specific focus. Above all, he prefers candid shots where someone is in their natural element and not posing.

“The photograph tells a story. It’s not necessarily what’s snapped in the picture, it’s what’s behind the pictures, what’s the story behind the picture," Long said. "There’s a lot of story to be told and I think that’s what makes the shots good."

His pictures capture the triumphs and the dangers of deployment. One image that stands out in his mind is of two members of the Afghan Air Force fixing a helicopter on their own, without the assistance of the American Air Force. Another is a black and white image of a flight engineer who took a bullet through the neck. Long’s photograph is mostly in shadow, but two bright spots show the man’s bandage and Purple Heart.

The airman has given many of his photographs away. He said when he sees people struggling or doing something unique to recover, he hopes his photographs can add more meaning to what they’re doing.

Staff Sgt. Jessica Dierking, who suffers from PTSD, was gifted a picture from Long that she keeps above her desk. The photograph shows lines of string balled up in knots, which she said symbolize how life's problems can be unraveled, one at a time.

“I’m calmer after I look at it," Dierking said. "Because I have that reminder that I do have friends that are going through similar problems and every problem, I can overcome them.”

Long, who also suffers from PTSD, joined the Wounded Warriors in July.

“It's a cool gig for me," Long said. "I'm raising awareness. I'm all about supporting my Wounded Warrior brothers and sisters.”

Ray Bogan is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in El Paso, Texas. Follow him on twitter: @RayBogan