Lifestyle & Human Interest

Teen's Senior Photo Shoot Pays Tribute to Father Who Lost Life After IED Explosion in Afghanistan


A high school senior in Aurora, Nebraska, found a special way to honor her military father who died after serving in Afghanistan in 2008.

Julia Yllescas knew that there were certain things her father would miss. He wouldn’t be there to walk her down the aisle at her wedding and he wouldn’t be there to see her graduate from college.

Captain Robert Yllescas paid the ultimate sacrifice for his country after he was severely injured in an IED explosion while serving in Afghanistan. He was sent home to the United States for treatment, where he passed away almost a month after the explosion. Julia was just a little girl.

But she still feels his presence in her life every single day, and he will always be her dad.

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When it came time to take her senior photos, the teenager wanted to do something special to include her father in the photo shoot. She sent her photographer photos of her dad and asked if it would be possible to include his image next to hers.

“I thought it would be a great idea to do these ‘angel pictures’ for [Julia] as a special gift for her big milestone,” photographer Susanne Beckmann told WXIN.

Beckmann, a military wife herself, managed to include Captain Yllescas in the photos. She edited his image next to Julia, posing the teen to show how her dad is always watching over her.

“I was teary-eyed when I was editing them, all I could think in my head is I don’t ever want to have to do this for my own kids,” the photographer told KOLN.

“I was very emotional when I edited the photos because my husband is active duty national guard and has been put in the same exact situations as Rob was, but I was lucky enough for him to come home,” Beckmann said, according to the Love What Matters Facebook account.

She told the Western Journal, “as a military wife myself, I was very honored to give Julia a special memory of her father. I’ve taken her pictures for several years and I’m so happy we were able to finally include her father.”

Beckmann posed Julia with a flag and a photo of her father initially, then added his image to photos of Julia sitting in a wooded area and walking down a path. The teen also wore her father’s dog tags for the shoot, saying, “it was just like wearing a little bit of him.”

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The gift of the photos has been especially meaningful for Julia.

“I almost felt when I saw those pictures that he truly was there,” she said. “Sometimes it feels like ‘where are you, why did you have to leave?’” the senior said.

It will mean the world to her to have the reminder that he is always with her.

“Just to have that on my wall and be like ‘no he is with me,’ even though I can’t physically see him,” she told KOLN.

The images have touched hearts online, drawing hundreds of comments and shares. The photos capture the bond between father and daughter and remind us that those we love are never truly gone so long as we remember them.

Beckmann said she was blown away by the response to the photos and honored that she had the opportunity to create them for Julia.

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Laura Stewart was an associate story editor and news and lifestyle contributor for The Western Journal.
Laura Stewart was an associate story editor and news and lifestyle contributor for The Western Journal.
Phoenix, AZ