Dave Sandell took pictures for The Capital Times for five decades before retiring in 2008, but he never figured that one of those pictures taken some 50 years ago would show up in a 2017 issue of Smithsonian Magazine.
But there it is spread across two pages in the Smithsonian's September issue along with a short description by Penn Rhodeen, a UW Law School grad who was first taken by the photo when it ran in The Capital Times on Sept. 29, 1967, during the height of the Vietnam War.
Sandell's picture shows the medal for combat valor being presented to the family of Thomas Broome, an 18-year-old killed in Vietnam, and Sun Prarie's first Vietnam death.
Rhodeen, who now practices law in New Haven, Conn., writes: "Lt. Ron Weindel is handing the medal to Tom's father, Stanley, who maintained the boilers for Wisconsin Porcelain — a job he loved so much he would later be buried in his bib overalls and engineer's cap. In her grief, Tom's mother, Alice, is like a figure in a Renaissance painting. The man in the Legion cap is Victor Ward, a World War II vet who had known Tom from birth. The girl is Tom's sister, Fannie, 13. Behind her is Mayor Clarence Severson.
"The young man is Tom's brother, John, 17, who was leaving for the Army in ten days. He had promised that he wouldn't go to Vietnam, but later went anyway, hoping it would connect him to the brother he missed. In Vietnam he operated a construction crane and won his own Bronze Star."
Rhodeen explains that the "extraordinary photo — with its panorama of complex emotions — will always stand for those who were lost and for everyone they left behind."
As for Sandell, who still lives on Louden Lane on Madison's east side, he can't remember the picture.
"It was one of probably ten thousand pictures I took over my career at the paper," he said. "But it's nice to realize that it had an impact after all these years."
Dave Zweifel is editor emeritus of The Capital Times. firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @DaveZweifel
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