Behind the Lens: Photographing an American Hero

Six years ago — on June 6, 2009 — I photographed Cory Remsburg for the first time.

It was amid a whirlwind day in France for President Obama — and for me. We’d had an event with U.S. embassy personnel in Paris; a flight on Air Force One from Paris to Caen; a state visit with then-President Sarkozy; a picturesque helicopter ride into Normandy; the 65th anniversary of D-Day; a helicopter, then a plane ride back to Paris; and finally a tour with the Obama family at the Cathedral de Notre Dame. The President and First Lady greeted hundreds of people that day, including a small group of Army Rangers in Normandy.

Eight months later, I accompanied the President as he made his regular quarterly trip to visit wounded warriors at National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda. The 10th patient he visited that day did not at all look familiar to me. The patient, an Army Ranger, had suffered a severe brain injury caused by a roadside explosion in Afghanistan.

His name was Cory Remsburg.

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West Wing Week: 1/30/15 or, “Namaste Obama”

This week, the President made history by being the first sitting President to make a second visit to India. He and the First Lady also traveled to Saudi Arabia to pay their respects to the late King. And back at home, the President convened a meeting with U.S. mayors and honored outgoing Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel. That's January 23 to January 29 or, "Namaste Obama."

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“A True American Patriot” — President Obama Pays Tribute to Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel

President Obama, Vice President Biden and Gen. Martin Dempsey participate in an Armed Forces farewell in honor of Secretary Hagel

President Barack Obama, Vice President Joe Biden and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff participate in an Armed Forces farewell in honor of Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, left, at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall in Fort Myer, Va., Jan. 28, 2015. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)

The President traveled to Fort Myer, Virginia yesterday for the Armed Forces farewell ceremony in honor of our 24th Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel.

In his remarks, the President acknowledged Secretary Hagel's courageous work during his lifelong service as a decorated veteran and Secretary:

[T]oday is a celebration of a quintessentially American life -- a man from the heartland who devoted his life to America. Just imagine, in your mind’s eye, the defining moments of his life. The kid from Nebraska who, as Marty said, volunteered to go to Vietnam. The soldier outside Saigon, rushing to pull his own brother from a burning APC. The deputy at the VA who stood up for his fellow Vietnam vets who were exposed to Agent Orange. The senator who helped lead the fight for the Post 9/11 GI Bill, to give this generation of heroes the same opportunities that he had.

I asked Chuck to lead this department at a moment of profound transition. And today we express our gratitude for the progress under his watch.

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President Obama Nominates Ashton Carter as the Next Secretary of Defense

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This morning, President Obama announced his nomination of former Deputy Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter to be the next U.S. Secretary of Defense. Carter has been in public service for more than 30 years, and has served in various positions under 11 Secretaries of Defense.

"Ash is rightly regarded as one of our nation’s foremost national security leaders," the President said in today's remarks. "As a top member of our Pentagon team for the first five years of my presidency, including his two years as deputy secretary, he was at the table in the Situation Room; he was by my side navigating complex security challenges that we were confronting. I relied on his expertise, and I relied on his judgment."

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The Department of Defense Must Plan for the National Security Implications of Climate Change

The responsibility of the Department of Defense is the security of our country. That requires thinking ahead and planning for a wide range of contingencies. Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global... Read more »

Weekly Wrap Up: September 6-12

This week, President Obama spoke about the threat posed by ISIL and commemorated the 13th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, we marked the 20th anniversary of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and the First Lady hosted a "prep" rally in Atlanta.

Check out what else you may have missed this week in our weekly wrap up.

“If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

On Wednesday evening, from the State Floor of the White House, President Obama spoke to the American people about our comprehensive strategy to degrade and ultimately destroy the terrorist group known as ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant).

ISIL was formerly al Qaeda’s affiliate in Iraq and has since infiltrated territories on both sides of the Iraq-Syrian border. Although ISIL calls itself the “Islamic State,” the President highlighted that:

ISIL is not ‘Islamic.’ No religion condones the killing of innocents, and the vast majority of ISIL’s victims have been Muslim. And ISIL is certainly not a state. ... It is recognized by no government, nor the people it subjugates.

In his remarks, the President outlined the four key components of the United States’ strategy to defeat ISIL:

  1. We will work with the Iraqi government to conduct a systematic campaign of airstrikes against ISIL.
  2. We will increase support of forces fighting ISIL on the ground.
  3. We will work with our partners to continue to draw on our substantial counterterrorism capabilities to prevent ISIL attacks and sustain an effective long-term campaign against ISIL.
  4. We will continue to provide humanitarian assistance to the innocent and vulnerable civilians displaced by ISIL in Iraq and Syria.

The President reiterated and assured the American people that “If you threaten America, you will find no safe haven.”

Watch the President’s full remarks on ISIL here.

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“We Will Only Grow Stronger”: President Obama Commemorates the 13th Anniversary of the 9/11 Attacks

President Barack Obama, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, and Gen. Martin Dempsey, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, listen to the national anthem during the September 11th Observance Ceremony at the Pentagon Memorial in Arlington, Va., ... Read more »

Combating Climate Change: Secretary Hagel Hosts the U.S.-ASEAN Defense Forum

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel hosts a roundtable meeting with defense ministers from the Association of South East Asian Nations in Honolulu, Hawaii, April 2, 2014. (DoD Photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo) ... Read more »