Gabe Neill, train jumping

By Sheri Oneal

Several years ago I met a young man named Gabe Neill who was visiting my neighbor next door. His demeanor was electric, inspiring and he seemed so positive. He enamored me with his visit saying he was traveling the US jumping freight trains. He said his grandfather told him stories of jumping trains when he was a kid and he wanted to see what it was like so he set out on his adventure. I went out the next day and shot a few photos of Gabe around the freight cars over in the gulch before being run off by the cops. Gabe left the next morning well rested with only a backpack.

A week ago I received an email from a woman named Cordilia Neill, Gabe’s mother, requesting a few copies of the images I had taken of her son because she missed him. In that email she explained that the photos I had taken of her son several years ago were when he was traveling the US trying to heal from PTSD and the loss of his “Brothers.” She went on to say that Gabe (Snowden Gabriel Neill) had re-enlisted in the Air Force and was currently training to be a Para-Rescue. He had been in Philadelphia the last two months training in the emergency room and riding with paramedics. He would be returning to his home base soon in Albuquerque.

Yesterday I sent the images below to Cordilia and this was her return email…

“Good Morning Ms. Sheri,

I was at job training all day yesterday. I came to work this morning very emotional and sensitive.

I opened your email and cried. I am and feel truthfully rich.

Although, Gabriel is away training in the Air Force, You have captured his heart and beauty.

Beautiful and amazing is your gift to me.  I am truly, sincerely very grateful to you.

You are without a doubt, wonderful!

I am Blessed.

You are Loved

Thank you.”

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As a photographer this is one of the most fulfilling messages I have ever received. I was surprised that this young man never mentioned his difficulties when I met him that day in Nashville and even more surprised of his demeanor after knowing that he was privately suffering from loss and with PTSD. It is a great reminder that when we look around us our world may not be as it appears. It is a reminder that a smile can make all the difference to the people around you and for your own personal healing however hard that may be. I have always said that I do not do photography for the money, I do it because I have a passion for the craft and because I hope to capture something that moves the viewer in an emotional way. My goal with my work is to capture a moment in time that will keep the lives of those in my photographs alive long after I or they are gone. As a storyteller my one goal it to make my images appear timeless.

Happy Friday everyone and thank you for following my work!

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*NOTE all Sheri Oneal blog post are ©2013 by Sheri Oneal. Any use of photos or content (other than sharing the link) must be agreed upon in writing.

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