By TOMIE LUNSFORD
Telegram Staff Writer
The soldier in her picture: 'Did he come home safe?'
Amanda Hoelscher asked that question in 2005. The Temple High School senior remembers the concern she felt for the kind face in her drawing.
'I wanted to know more about him,' Miss Hoelscher said. 'I looked and I looked but never found anything.'
She got her answer three weeks ago. A woman who recognized the soldier as her husband called Miss Hoelscher's art teacher, Barbara Wilson from the Wilson School of Art in Morgan's Point Resort.
'I was surprised, without words,' Ms. Wilson said. 'Her name was Stephanie Edwards, and she wanted to give her compliments to the artist. She said it was wonderful and that it looked exactly like her husband Lucas.'
As the two women chatted, Ms. Wilson learned that Mr. Edwards returned home without injury.
'Then I asked her how she saw the drawing,' Ms. Wilson said. 'And she said it was on the Internet.'
That bit of news dumbfounded Ms. Wilson: 'I had no idea how it got on the Internet. I didn't put it there. Amanda didn't put it there.'
So Ms. Wilson thanked Mrs. Edwards for her call and the compliments. She was eager to call Miss Hoelscher and share the news.
'That was so neat that the soldier's wife called Barb,' Miss Hoelscher said. 'It's exciting as all this is coming together.'
She was 14 when she drew the pencil sketch.
'I remember that it was around the time that I was starting to be aware of the Iraq war,' Miss Hoelscher said. 'I wanted to do a tribute to soldiers. So Barb went looking for some photos from a bunch of newspapers and magazines and stuff, and I picked one of a soldier smelling a letter from home. It was real personal and emotional, so I decided to draw it.'
The photo was taken March 29, 2005, by Associated Press photographer John Moore, who was embedded with the U.S. Army 3rd Division 7th Battalion in Iraq.
'It came out in so many publications - the New York Times, the Washington Post, and all of our local media,' Mrs. Edwards said. 'Just as soon as we thought the attention from it was over, well, we'd get another call from a friend about how they saw the photo.'
Mr. Edwards remembers the day Moore took the photo.
'It was the first mail call that deployment,' he said. The soldier was stationed near Karbala, Iraq, serving in the 1st Alpha Co. 3.7 Infantry Division.
'The letter smelled like my wife. It smelled like home,' Mr. Edwards said.
Before she mailed the letter, Mrs. Edwards said she had sprayed it with her scent, Ralph by Ralph Lauren.
'I was hoping the smell would stay with the letter,' she said.
After the photo was published across the country, Mr. Edwards said his war buddies couldn't stop teasing him.
'They were calling me the most non-famous man that everyone knew,' Mr. Edwards said.
Wonder of the Web
Keeping track of her husband's famous picture turned into a hobby for Mrs. Edwards.
'I do Internet searches to find out what kind of Web sites it's on and where it's been published,' Mrs. Edwards said. 'That's how I found the drawing by Amanda Hoelscher.'
The link that caught Mrs. Edwards' attention was a Web site belonging to Allison Slomowitz, a former Telegram photographer: www.allisonslomowitz.com/photoj11. At the site, there is a photograph of a younger Miss Hoelscher holding her drawing.
'The photo was of her at First United Methodist Church with her drawing,' Ms. Slomowitz said. 'It was part of a program to get people to write letters of support to U.S. soldiers.'
That photograph was never published in the Telegram, but Ms. Slomowitz uploaded it online to her portfolio.
'I grew attached to it,' Ms. Slomowitz said. 'The girl's drawing really is quite powerful.'
In her caption for the photo, Ms. Slomowitz included the detail of Miss Hoelscher being a student of the Wilson School of Art in Morgan's Point Resort. That's the key piece of information that enabled Mrs. Edwards to contact Ms. Wilson.
And that's how Miss Hoelscher learned the fate of the soldier in her drawing.