In the photograph, an elderly, jacketed survivor of Pearl Harbor embraces a decorated Marine, overcome with emotion as the younger serviceman returns the gesture with an artificial hand.
The setting is the plaza in front of Dallas City Hall at the conclusion of the 2004 Veterans Day Parade.
The powerful portrait, originally published in The Dallas Morning News
, found its way around the world, beloved by many a veterans organization for the collective bond of service and sacrifice it illustrates
Houston James is 87 now. He uses a walker to get around. His home is an assisted-living facility in Mesquite, and his wife, Marian, has been gone a long while.
"I forgot all about that photo," he said.
Military memorabilia populates his apartment — patches, decals, history books. A VHS copy of the Pearl Harbor film Tora! Tora! Tora!
sits on a shelf.
The picture, he said, was taken at a parade downtown. He doesn't recall the year.
He taps the photograph with a finger.
"I was walking by," he said. "He was up on the reviewing stand. I spotted him."
And then he saw the man's prosthesis.
The Marine is retired Staff Sgt. Mark Graunke of Flower Mound, who, as part of an ordnance-disposal team in Iraq, lost his hand, leg and eye while attempting to defuse a bomb in 2003.
His mission was to keep roads free of explosive devices. On July 2, as he worked on a piece of unexploded material, it went off in his left hand.
Graunke, who now works for JPMorgan Chase in Coppell, had opted for ordnance-disposal duty after a stint as a Marine Security Guard. He did not respond to requests for an interview.
But on his LinkedIn profile, he writes: "I wanted to do something that was going to challenge me both mentally and physically. That is just what I got."
"I strive for perfection in everything I do and I have no regrets for anything I have done," Graunke goes on.
"Life is full of ups and downs and it is how you deal with those situations that will define you as an individual."