Hello and Happy Thanksgiving! In less than a week, I will travel to Oahu, Hawaii to photograph Lou Conter, the last USS Arizona Survivor to ever stand on the Pearl Harbor Memorial and the last internment in Pearl Harbor history for a survivor we lost this September 10th, Lauren Bruner. This trip will cost approximately $6,000 out of my own pocket (includes all my travel expenses, equipment, fees for GoFundMe) and is only possible through the generous donations of people like you that believe in me and the importance of this project. When I return, I will begin assembling the exclusive images I've captured for my large format coffee table book, “A Tribute to Valor”, which will celebrate the stories, lives and events of The Greatest Generation and the historical relevance and significance of Pearl Harbor.
If 160 people donated $25 I would make significant progress towards my fundraising goal. Would you be able to help make this a reality and consider a donation? It would also really help if you could share my link with everyone you know - the more eyes on my fundraiser, the better. All donor names will be featured on a "special thanks to" page in the book.
For those interested in learning more about my journey to find these survivors and why this project is so important to me, continue reading below...…. Back in 2011 while I was working on a movie in Atlanta, I came across a newspaper article announcing a special event for the 70th anniversary of Pearl Harbor. I thought it would be fascinating to photograph this event and meet a Pearl Harbor survivor so I drove 2 hours in the rain, only to find out it had been canceled due to weather. The following day, I called the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW) organization to see if they could help me locate the survivor that was scheduled to attend. Even after multiple phone calls, no one ever responded so there began my personal quest to try to locate one of the Pearl Harbor survivors that was aboard the USS Arizona.
After 5 years of searching, I finally found one of the remaining five survivors, Donald Stratton. Donald's son, Randy, was organizing the 75th anniversary celebration at the Pearl Harbor Memorial. I was warmly welcomed by the Stratton family and they invited me to attend the event and gave me permission to be their exclusive photographer. I knew this was a once in a lifetime opportunity that I couldn't pass up so I made a decision to quit the tv show I was working on, buy a plane ticket and fly to Hawaii, all while having no idea how I was going to pay for it or if there would be work waiting for me when I returned. You might be asking yourself why I would walk away from a paying job to go do something for free that would cost thousands of dollars out of my own pocket plus lost revenue from work. Well, the answer was quite simple. I felt a huge tug on my heart and an obligation and a desire to be able to do something to say thank you to these heroes that served our country, and to utilize the gifts and talents that I have been blessed with behind a camera. There is something so rewarding about serving and giving back to people and getting to attend the 75th and 76th anniversaries at Pearl Harbor were truly the greatest adventures of my life.
I have been volunteering my time to serve veterans for the last eight years now, but driving down the street for a local Veterans' Day event in my neighborhood compared to the expense of traveling thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean are two very different things. I can honestly say that without the help of generous donations from the people like you that care about our country’s history and the brave men and women that have fought and served to protect it, this project would have been impossible to finance on my own. So that is why this final fundraising campaign was necessary for me to initiate. There are currently only three remaining survivors of the USS Arizona; Donald G. Stratton 97, Lou Conter 98, and Ken Potts 99. When I heard that this year, Lou Conter will be returning for a final visit and Lauren Bruner will be the final Arizona survivor interred on the ship, I just couldn’t say no and pass up this final opportunity to be a part of history and to once again, serve these men and their families with my photography. Thank you for your time to learn about this project. Sincerely, Paolo Cascio Filmmaker/Photographer Dana Point, CA