Adjusting focus: former combat photographer reminisces on service

Special to the NEWS

Joining the army at the age of 22, Lorraine “Stevie” Mendoza felt eager for the new experiences and friendships that she would not have otherwise experienced as a resident of San Benito.

Mendoza is a U.S. Army veteran who served as a combat photographer.

Her assignments varied from taking photos of hospitals and documenting Marine water tanks to embarking on humanitarian missions and capturing daily military life.

One of her most gripping photography moments came when clearing a road in Afghanistan that took heavy fire, gaining her a “Combat Action Badge.”

(Click here to view Mendoza’s page, Overdoze Photography. )

Before entering boot camp, Mendoza trained for a year with her personal trainer because she wanted to be ready for the grit. She was stationed at Fort Meade Base in Maryland, between Washington, D.C. and Baltimore.

Because the U.S Army offers specific jobs, Stevie took notice of the position of combat photographer. She knew nothing about it, but she immediately talked to her recruiter.

“I’ve always been interested in photography and media in some shape or form, and being able to fine-tune that interest in this craft was like second nature to me,” said Mendoza.

Her first official assignment was with the U.S Navy, which sent her on a humanitarian mission to document Guatemalan kids and the painting of their school.

Mendoza knew she had to be professional in her line of work, but traveling to other countries and discovering the differences between her way of life and others’ was a complete shock.

“A fifteen year old was terrified of me thinking my camera was a weapon once,” Mendoza said. “I couldn’t imagine living an entire life not knowing what a camera was.”

Mendoza’s photos were uploaded into secure servers that sorted into any promotion or clearance purpose in the military, such as projects and presentations. She was also attached to special forces for a month to run security, being the only female.

After returning home from her service, Mendoza eventually graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communication, and is now a caretaker in a hospice center with her grandmother.

Mendoza continues to take photos of free landscaping, but admits that she misses the times and friendships she made upon joining the United States military.

Editor’s note: This article has been edited for length. To read the full story, click here or make sure to grab a copy of the Nov. 8-14, 2019 issue of the NEWS.


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