A Gilbert photographer and portrait studio owner is participating in a national effort to send 10,000 free family photographs to troops stationed overseas.
Christina McMaster and 3-year-old Carly Berta are generations apart, but they share a very similar personal experience.
Both watched at a very young age as their fathers boarded an airplane or ship to help fight a war they were too young to understand in a part of the world that was as alien to them as another planet.
McMaster, 47, was about Carly's age when her dad, Wilfredo Ereso, left home to help fight the war in Vietnam in the early 1960s. Carly's dad, Jeno, an Army major, left for Iraq on Jan. 17.
"I remember him leaving a lot, but the one that really hit me was when I was around 13 and just watching him load up on the ship," she said.
Those memories and her empathy for other families with loved ones overseas are what prompted the Gilbert photographer and owner of Portraits by Christina to participate in a national effort to send 10,000 free family photographs to troops stationed overseas.
The PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association, a trade organization with major camera companies such as Nikon, Olympus and Fujifilm on its membership roster, organized the Portraits of Love Project along with the nonprofit group Soldiers' Angels.
"We wanted to do something to give back as an organization," said Jerry Grossman, the group's president. "I actually became president of the organization in January, and I thought one of the missions that we should have is to do something as an industry, as the photographic industry, to do good."
The group has recruited hundreds of photographers across the country, including about 30 in Arizona so far.
The goal is to get 10,000 5-inch-by-7-inch photos to U.S. soldiers stationed overseas by the start of the holidays.
Dawn Berta, Carly's mother, said her husband is a big picture-taker.
"He just really likes getting pictures of us all the time," she said.
She said it never occurred to her to send a professional photograph of the whole family until she learned of the Portraits of Love Project.
"(I) just realized that he would really enjoy that," she said.
So with Carly and her other daughter, 11-year-old Cassie, in tow, Berta headed to McMaster's home studio in Gilbert on Wednesday.
"Now we have to pick one, and I'm having trouble because they're all really so nice," Berta said.
The program runs through September. For more information, go to www.pmdaportraitsoflove.com