A few minutes after a recent memorial service in Gresham for a Navy SEAL killed in Afghanistan, a man dressed in black military garb snapped dozens of photos of the 300 or so attendees. The 49-year-old photographer, Q Madp, then posted the photos from that Aug. 27 service for Jeffrey Lucas on his site www.iraqwarheroes.com.
The Lucas service was the latest of nearly 50 funerals and memorial services Madp has attended since 2003-from Sacramento to the Canadian border-for U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Madp says his goal is simple and strictly apolitical: to digitally honor each one of those soldiers. After putting away his digital camera, Madp, an "underemployed'' Portland freelance computer technician who works a few hours each week to feed himself and support his encyclopedically meticulous website, talked with WW about his trips and running a military tribute page in a town like Portland.
WW: Are services in cities different from ones in small towns?
Q Madp: Oh, yeah. Imagine a good-sized high-school stadium totally packed, standing room only. That was outside of Yakima. When you get ready to go into a small town and they're giving tribute, you know it the minute you hit that city limit: You see flags, you see the marquees of businesses have names on them. In Portland, I don't see people lining up like that.
Why are people more indifferent in Portland?
I don't know if it's politics, or people here just don't care. I think in general, Portland is anti-this whole thing-it's more of a Bush-hating thing. I think people are afraid that if they show up at a funeral they're making a political statement.
You claim that your site's apolitical, but what do you say to those who believe that honoring soldiers as heroes validates the war?
Under my breath I'd probably say "F-off." Anyone who enlists for the purpose of defending this country that dies is a hero. I firmly believe that over 70 percent of those people bitching and whining and moaning-they would never get up and join if we had some country invading us. They'd be cowering in their little holes.
What about the Bush administration's media blackout on showing coffins returning from Iraq?
I get kind of conflicted on this. Some family members believe showing coffins on TV before they get to see their kid is disrespectful. I can see that. On the other hand, I think they were also doing this to keep us in the dark on how many of these guys are being killed. We don't need that kind of censorship.
Could you see how your site could be called pro-war?
I'm not advocating war. I'm just honoring the men and women who stood up and swore to defend this country in whatever capacity they were assigned. I don't think the death of a soldier should be considered a political statement.
Are there other personal reasons for your efforts?
Too many of my friends who were in Vietnam got totally trashed: not by the Vietnamese, but by the people here when they returned. They're still spitting on them-a lot of them are still being treated like trash.
Are you a veteran?
I'm a Cold War veteran; I spent most of my time in the Army in Europe taking pictures.
Do you support the war?
I'm a Republican, and, yes, I support the war.
How do you think the war is going?
Not quick enough. When I listen to guys over there that message me, they're making lots of good progress; but when I have to listen to the general news, there is no progress. So, how do I think the war is going in general? I think it's good.
Has this progress meant you're going to fewer funerals?
In the Northwest, funerals have been slowing down. But no, I don't use that as any sign of progress; I take a look at August and, man, we lost a shitload of people. The more progress we are making with the Iraqis, the more terrorist strikes we get.
After going to so many funerals, do they still affect you?
They do. I almost feel like I'm getting to know these guys. I think as a society, we need to say "Thank you." How much is it to take two or three hours out to attend one freakin' funeral? Because this guy's got no more coming-that's it. And he died for you.
Q Madp is not his real name. "Q" is a nickname he got in the '70s, while the only thing he'll say about "Madp" (pronounced mad-pee) is that it's an amalgamation of "names I've had in the past."
In addition to www.iraqwarheroes.com , Q Madp owns hundreds of domain names. He recently sold www.blazerssuck.com on eBay for $1,300 to buy a new laptop for his website.