I have a faded black and white photo of my paternal grandfather, posing, quite seriously, in his petty officer’s uniform, circa 1917. The portrait is a formal one. It was taken in France during the first world war, and printed as a souvenir postcard—something the young sailor probably intended to send stateside, though there is no message, or address, written on the back.
More than one of these postcards was undoubtedly printed, but this is the sole survivor. My grandfather’s troop transport, the USS America, sank in New Jersey harbor, was raised and repaired, and following its decommissioning some years later, scuttled. Or so I've been led to believe.
My grandfather survived the Great War, living well into his eighties. But the uniform he wore found its way to the bottom of a dry cistern in Sioux City, Iowa one summer when my grandmother decided to clean the attic.