October 06, 2006

Posting date: 10/8/06
:  Michael Fay
Stationed in: Washington, D.C.
Hometown: Fredericksburg, VA
Milblog url:
E-mail: [email protected]

At the moment I'm working on a series of portraits of Marines currently undergoing intense medical care and rehabilitation. These images are the result of visits back in mid-August to both Bethesda and Walter Reed hospitals. The project, as it has evolved, will result in four portraits, each depicting a different type of wound. Hopefully they will round out the comprehensive combat art collection exhibit that will grace the grand opening of the National Museum of the Marine Corps.

Sgt_herman Sergeant Todd Herman, USMC

Our first day was spent at Bethesda, and Sergeant Herman was the Marine NCO-in-charge conducting the morning formation. He quickly organized the guys willing to be sketched and photographed, and identified a quiet well lit space to use as a make-shift studio. Sergeant Herman has been enduring almost two years of multiple facial reconstruction surgeries.

We couldn't have crossed paths with a more fearless individual. I remember studying his face as I was doing my initial "you guys are still in the fight and we want to capture your experiences" orientation speech. What really, in hindsight, drew my eye to him was his eyes and the light that rose up in them as I did my little mission brief. This NCO clued in and went to work immediately implementing a plan to accomplish my commander's intent.

In the final analysis what made our trip a success was the fearless and unvarnished emotional availability of these Marines. Sergeant Herman instinctively knew that the history of the War on Terrorism was now written in the bold and unmistakable scars on his face and head, and was unashamed. Let me also go so far as to say that in these scars (which he wryly assured us has not interfered with his romantic life) are writ great words of hope and glad promise for all Americans. At the end of the day our nation, despite the ephemerality and expedience that seem to permeate present times, still produces Sergeant Hermans... folks imbued with timeless values, courage and endurance.

Herman is the personification of William Ernest Henley's poem Invictus:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.


I really like your sketch. Also, I read the poem a few times over, comparing to what you wrote about him. You were right, that poem did seem like it fit him, especially these lines:

"I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul."

Mainly when you talked about how he wasn't ashamed of his scars. You're an amazing artist.

What a wonderful way to use your gift, Michael.
God bless you for keeping history fresh & making it real. Rehab is hell, the wounded often forgotten.
Thank you. Christine M

This man is a wonderful example of faith and perseverance in spite of all he has gone thru for his country. God Bless & Keep him and all ours who are fighting this awful war. We pray for their safety.

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