Soldier Spotlight: Master Sgt. Keri Whitehead

Editors Note: TSV is involved with supporting the cure for breast cancer, and has done so for many years. Having lost my mother to this horrible disease, and been alongside some close friends while enduring breast cancer, this story hits very close to home.

In the current issue of Airman Magazine, combat photographer Master Sgt. Keri Whitehead turns the camera lens around and tells her struggle with breast cancer.

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Keri Whitehead - Keri's WarKeri’s War

by Randy Roughton

3/1/2011 – Airman Magazine March/April 2011 — Master Sgt. Keri Whitehead’s daughter doesn’t understand cancer. The 4-year-old doesn’t yet grasp the battle her mom is facing. Kassidy has one question that bothers her:

“Mommy, what happened to your hair?”

Sergeant Whitehead tells her daughter she’s sick, but eventually will get better, and her hair will grow back. She even showed Kassidy her scars, but wanted something enduring to show her little girl when she’s old enough to understand, something hopeful like one of the lighthouses that decorate the living room in Sergeant Whitehead’s Charleston, S.C., home, and ironically, the walls of her chemotherapy office. The sergeant wanted it to be something that could be a beacon for her daughter if she encounters a storm like the one her mother’s facing now.

The combat photographer and 14-year Air Force veteran found the answer in “Keri’s War,” a series of images and interviews that document her cancer fight from diagnosis through reconstructive surgery. Master Sgt. J.T. Lock, a fellow combat photographer and four-time Department of Defense Military Photographer of the Year, asked her if he could document her story after she asked him to take family photos of her and Kassidy. While aware the project would require some sensitive photos, the decision wasn’t difficult for Sergeant Whitehead, who is the noncommissioned officer-in-charge of the 1st Combat Camera Squadron’s combat photography training element at Joint Base Charleston, S.C.

“It was an easy decision because not only would we be able to get the word out there, but it would be a documentation, something I could show Kassidy when she’s older, that she could actually be able to relate to because she’s not going to remember,” Sergeant Whitehead said. “She’ll remember that I didn’t have any hair, but she’s not going to remember any of the details, and this is a way I can give that back to her.

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