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‘He truly was there’: Nebraska photographer helps teen honor fallen Army father in senior photos

A photographer checks his image of an E-3 Sentry deployed in support of Red Flag 11-2 during an organized media day on the flightline Jan. 25, 2011. (U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Benjamin Wilson)
August 22, 2019

A photographer in Nebraska wanted to ensure a high school senior had portraits to remember.

Now, those photos have spread across the internet.

Photographer Susanne Beckmann on Saturday shared senior portraits of Julia Yllescas on Facebook. In the photos, Julia is seen looking at a transparent image of her father, U.S. Army Capt. Robert J. Yllescas, who died in 2008 from injuries suffered when an improvised explosive device detonated near him in Afghanistan.

In Beckmann’s post, Julia is wearing dog tags in one photo and holding an American flag in the other.

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“It almost felt, when I saw those pictures, that he truly was there,” Julia told KOLN-TV in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Beckmann, who said she’s been taking photos for about eight years, told USA TODAY she’s known the Yllescas family for years and has been taking photos of Julia since the teen was 9 years old.

Beckmann, a military wife and mother of two, said she never expected the photos to gain such attention. As of Tuesday evening, Beckmann’s Facebook post has been shared about 38,000 times.

“We just took the senior photos on Saturday and I posted them to my business Facebook page Sunday night. Now it’s Tuesday and it’s been shared this many times… it’s just insane,” Beckmann said. “I had no idea it would resonate with so many people and there would be so much support and positivity behind it. It’s been super cool.”

She posted the photos to her photography page, “Snapshots By Suz.

Beckmann first shared the photos with Juila’s mother, Dena Yllescas. Beckmann said both Dena Yllescas and Julia expressed gratitude after seeing the photos.

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“Her mom just said they took her breath away,” Beckmann said.

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© 2019 USA Today