Nine Miles of Memories

Just outside of the world famous city of Saratoga Springs, NY, known for the inventions of the club sandwich and potato chips, the oldest horse racing track in the United States, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), the mineral springs, and the famous mineral baths that used to attract royalty and celebrities alike, lies a stretch of road nine miles long.

If you drive this nine mile stretch of road, you’ll pass through fields, over and along streams, and through wooded areas that seem to come alive with a past two centuries old. You won’t pass any convenience stores, but you’ll certainly see your share of wildlife; rabbits and deer call this place “Home.”

When you finish your drive through this landscape, you will be able to say you have driven through nine miles of the most historic pieces of land in America. You’ll step on some of the same grounds that helped shape our nation, breathed life into our independence from Great Britain, and where the turning point of the American Revolution took place.

I am talking about the Saratoga National Historical Park and the Battles of Saratoga. It was here where American patriots fought the British, defeating them and bringing the largest military force in the world closer to surrender. It was here where Benedict Arnold fought and was wounded. Yes, it’s along this road, that I not only relive history from colonial America, but also memories from my youth.

These grounds are not only home to deer, rabbits, and other wildlife. They’re not only home to centuries old trees that speak to you as you walk amongst them. They’re not only the burial sites of thousands of Continental Army and British soldiers. These grounds are home to some of my greatest memories in life.

It was along this road that I remember bike riding as a child. It was always a treat for us growing up, to load the bikes into the car and head to “the battlefield,” as we call it around here.

It was along this road that we used to come for a quiet drive, windows down (no matter how hot it was), radio off, and driving below the 25 mph speed limit on the one-way tour road. Even when I drive it today, I still turn off the radio and roll the windows down. It’s a land that although once soiled with blood, now demands peace; a land that once echoed with cannon and musket fire, now demands quietness. A land which was once filled with the battle cries of freedom, now asks for only whispers.

It was along this road that I learned to drive. My Dad once had a Ford Bronco stick-shift, and it was along these nine miles that I stalled and jerked the engine over and over. It was along this road that I learned how to push in the clutch, shift, stop on a hill, and come to a stop. It was also here that I learned the patience of a father.

Along this road I learned how to cross country ski, how to approach a deer from upwind, downwind, and everywhere in between. Along this same road is where I began to train and condition my body before joining the Air Force; running and walking the miles of pavement on cold March days in 2001.

Along these roads is where I returned in 2017 when I retired from the military. No longer a boy on a BMX bicycle, no longer a teenager learning to drive, and no longer a young man seeing how fast he could run a couple miles. I returned as an older man, weathered and experienced from life and death, war and peace, joy and sorrow. I returned to these grounds for one simple reason, and it’s the reason I keep going back.

From the very first day I rode my bike there, to the days I learned to drive, to the days my feet pounded the pavement, until now, the grounds remain the same. I return and can go to the same exact spot I went three decades ago, and it remains untouched. I can tell stories, or I can remain silent and just remember a day from years past come alive in the moment.

Nine miles of road. History shaped. Memories made. A life transformed.

For more information about this area, visit the Town of Saratoga Historian’s blog.

“Social Separation” – A Beautiful Day!

We have all seen on social media, television, and maybe our rare interactions with others during these extraordinary times, just how much of a toll social separation has taken. Not just on the economy, small businesses, family dynamics, but also on our social lives. Oh my goodness, what would we have done if COVID-19 happened pre-Facebook? Many would be devastated even more than they already are.

Each of us have developed our own coping mechanisms to deal with this newfound isolation. Me personally, I have spent more time outdoors and on trails than I ever have before. I have enjoyed it! I’ve enjoyed a simpler life; seeing people return to the basic things in life and have no choice but to slow down and just cherish the moment.

While I do yearn for a life of normalcy and seeing things return to normal, I am hoping that we never forget these days that have caused us to stop our daily routine as we knew it. When everything gets back to normal, I hope there are many lessons learned, and people will approach life in a more humble way.

One place I’ve been visiting more than ever, is Moreau Lake State Park, located in South Glens Falls/Gansevoort, NY. Not only does it have a lake that people typically frequent during the summer months, but there are plenty of cabins, rustic campsites, picnic areas, and a lot of hiking trails varying in length.

Just off the highway, it provides a sanctuary for birds and wildlife, as well as a place to center and feed the soul.



Take advantage of the time you have right now, to decide who you will be when all this is over. It’s a perfect time to hit the RESET button!

Stay safe everyone!

Depression – After the Storm

A couple weeks ago when I wrote the first of this three part series, I never would have thought the world would be in the situation it is today. I could not have imagined that all across the world, families and individuals are being told to stay home. We have this whole “social distancing” thing going on, we are asked to stay six to ten feet from others, and not gather in groups of more than ten individuals. How many of you, like me, had to go and get two separate beds for you and your significant other at night? Not really!

But in all seriousness, life has drastically changed for a lot of us over the past few weeks. What your routine looks like today is probably much different than it was pre-coronavirus. Moments like these can wreak havoc on someone who battles depression, loneliness, and anxiety. In the previous segments, I wrote about being in a crowded room, surrounded by friends and loved ones, yet feeling isolated and alone. Now imagine, being isolated and alone at this time, and what it is doing to those people. The outcome isn’t good at all. I’ve read all over social media, and have seen in numerous people, the temperature going up. They’re more irritated than before, they’re starting to lash out, and people have stated how the level of hostility within their homes has increased. Some people are at a breaking point. They’re scared, alone, unsure of the future, and their routine has been greatly disrupted.

As previously stated, I am definitely not a mental health expert. When I was in the Air Force and instructed many different training classes, I often taught suicide prevention; consisting of recognizing stressors in your own life, warning signs in others, and ways to cope with those things. How to get help!Like any of you reading this, I am no stranger to stress and life experiences that bring about a heightened level of stress and emotion. But please also realize that not every kind of stress is bad. Sometimes it actually makes us fight to survive. Stress can sometimes bring about new ideas and help you recognize a new passion!


In 2011, I personally went through what some may classify as one of the biggest negative stressors a person can go through. A divorce. It was quick, sudden, and came out of no where (at least for me). For several weeks I felt stunned, lost, and confused. It wasn’t the fact I was getting divorced that really hurt, as it may be for some, but it was being forced to change and adapt to a new life. At the time, I wasn’t one who particularly embraced change. I didn’t like trying new things. I liked the thought of security and the illusion things wouldn’t change. But here I was being forced to completely change my life, my outlook, and adapt. Instead of playing offense, I was now in defense mode and forced to do what I needed to in order to protect myself and my family. In short, this life experience that could have been devastating, is probably one of the greatest things to impact my adult life. I found new ways to occupy empty time, I learned to enjoy those quiet moments alone, be content, and focus on me. I went out and bought my first “real” camera. I began taking pictures, traveling around the area I lived in, and seeing beauty in a new way.


Through divorce, separation from family, being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis, having my sixteen year career in the Air Force cut four years shy of retirement and pension eligibility, and having to pack up and move somewhere with an unknown future, I’ve had my share of stressors. A couple of those started sending me on a downward spiral that I didn’t want to travel again. People ask me often, when hearing my story, how I survived or bounced back so quickly. It wasn’t easy, but it wasn’t hard either. It came with some difficulty, but here is how.


First? A lot of prayer! A lot of time in self-reflection and thinking about who I wanted to be when I came out on the other end. What did I want the last page of the story to read like? Did I want my story to be one of defeat, or one of triumph and victory?

Secondly, I found something I loved and I dove head first into it! Picking up the camera, traveling around, or even just photographing a family, gave me an outlet to focus on. Patriot Images wasn’t founded upon the love for photography. Sure, I love taking photos and I love giving a family or person something that can be treasured for a lifetime and then some, but that’s not the driving factor. Photography was and continues to be an outlet in which I can focus and help make an impact. It was never about money. It was about connecting and healing.

Another area, although I’m not always that great with it, is exactly what I am doing right now. Writing. As a teenager and going through some of the tough challenges teens face, I learned that I could express myself through writing. Maybe someone would stumble across it and it could help them. If not, then at least I was putting my thoughts down on paper and sorting them out for myself.


Whatever you’re going through, there is something on the other side. The emptiness and loneliness that you’re feeling? It will not last forever. It can’t. I know what is happening around you doesn’t always match what’s going on inside you. I know that while you may be physically surrounded by love, you sometimes feel so deserted and alone inside. I do promise that it cannot and will not last forever. Every storm ends. Take these moments and decide how you want the last page of your book to read. Choose victory over defeat. Talk to someone about how you’re feeling, how you want to feel, and what you think you could do to get you to that point. Maybe not immediately, but what are some steps you can take to move through the darkness?


Lastly, I am always available through email, FB Messenger, or by telephone. While I am no expert and I cannot promise to get you through those pits of despair in life, I will certainly walk with you through them and listen. It’s better than walking alone!

Walking Amongst Giants

Many of you who have kept up on my blog posts and who have gone further to check out my website, www.patriotimages.org, know that I am now heading into the second year of a project titled, “Faces of Veterans.”

The project, now turned into more of a journey, is focused on traveling across New York State and photographing as many of the 838,000 military veterans living within the state. Last year, over the span of ten months, we traveled to nine different NY counties and photographed approximately 1300 veterans and their guests. It has made a tremendous impact not only on the veterans and their families, but on me as well. So much, that I decided to pick it back up in 2020 and label it “Season Two.”

During Season Two, I am taking some of the feedback I received in 2019. Many viewers of the project expressed their interest in getting to know the veterans more personally. So this year, through the use of audio and video interviews, as well as photos, I am focusing on the more personal side of veterans and their lives.

Today was the first of what I hope to be many interviews. I met with a ninety-six year old WWII veteran named Mario in Lake George, NY. Mario was drafted after Pearl Harbor and became an Army medic. He spent eleven long months in Germany before returning home to his family. One of the things that I took away from today was his statement about why he joined.

“After the attack on Pearl Harbor, we had to do something. We couldn’t let this happen again. There wasn’t a man in my age group at the time who didn’t want to do whatever they could so this wouldn’t happen again.”

Mario “Doc” Mazzeo, WWII Veteran, United States Army

We live, breathe, and walk amongst giants. Mario’s generation, coined “The Greatest Generation,” is sadly a generation of brave American men who are passing away. There aren’t a lot of them left. Just several weeks ago, fighting infection, Mario was sent home from the hospital under hospice care. Thanks to his family by his side, his strong will to keep going, and his perseverance, Mario was full of energy and humor this afternoon when we spent a few hours together in his home.

Mario (left) and myself (right)

May God bless our men and women in uniform. May we never forget their sacrifices and their service to this great nation. May we honor them, their legacy, and forever remember that freedom is always a generation away from extinction.

Thank you Mario and family for such a great afternoon, for allowing me into your home, and sending me home a rich man with a full heart.

Who Am I? Part 1

Sitting in church recently, the pastoral staff spoke about identity. Some of the examples they gave sent me wandering down a rabbit hole of thoughts as I wondered who I am. What is my identity in this life?

We know life is short. Our childhood years pass by so quickly, and then we are thrust into the world of a young adult; going to school or working (sometimes both), and then BOOM!, we are adults with responsibilities. We quickly find ourselves with families, full-time jobs, bills, struggles, and serious decisions with serious consequences attached to them. For most of our lives we get into a rhythm of going to work, managing a home, raising a family, and the years fly by. By the time it is all over with and we realize how quickly it all seemed to come and go, we find ourselves with gray hairs (or no hair), a body that creeks and cracks with every step, and we are planning our final years of life. Life is short.

Who am I? That’s the question I have asked myself so many times before, but as 2020 approaches, I ask myself again; this time more seriously. Who do I really want to be as I go into this new year? I realize on February 1st, I will turn that age that most people (including myself), cringe at. The big 4-0. I’m not looking forward to it and it is a big reminder that life passes us by so quickly. Will it bring a midlife crisis? Who knows. But what I do know is that it is causing me to think deeper into many things. Who am I?

Last year I was on the brink of beginning a new adventure that took me through nine different New York State counties, where I photographed over thirteen hundred military veterans along with their families and/or guests. It was a journey that put me on the front page of a couple local newspapers and in front of television cameras. It was an adventure that was not only therapeutic for me, but for so many people I met. It’s an understatement for me to say I met some of the finest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Here I am however on the eve of a new year and I am thinking what adventures will take place this coming year.

When I go certain places, I am often met by comments like, “Hey, you’re that guy traveling New York and taking pictures of veterans,” or, “Hey, I saw you on television.” How do I want to be greeted this new year? When I sit here at this computer a year from now, Lord willing, what incredible journey do I want to be writing about? With as much control as I may have over this next calendar year, what do I want to seal in the history books of my life? Ask yourself this same question today. This is the final day of 2019 and a new year will begin as a new day; inevitable and with a clean slate.

As far as my answer, you’ll have to wait until next year. See you tomorrow for Part 2!