For the last three years, Shawnee photographer Jessie Newell has taken photos of veterans from all walks of life from in and around Pottawatomie County.

Newell said originally she was a kindergarten teacher at Pleasant Grove Elementary School, but after a decade of teaching she decided to start her own photography business.

According to Newell, she began photographing World War II veterans and their families for free and three years later she's continued the tradition.

"It just was an idea I had. I'd lost my grandpa several years before and I thought it would be a good way to honor him and his service," Newell said. "He was a WWII veteran."

The photographer said over the years she's taken hundreds of pictures of veterans from various time periods and their families.

"My grandpa kind of raised me and then he passed, so I think I went a long time without a father figure and so all of these men oddly have become like family," Newell said. "I photograph them and then four times a year we have lunches where we all get together and it has become like a community."

Newell said while she takes their pictures, she also gets to know all of the veterans and their families.

"It's basically for their families...I try to have them collect all of their family members even grandchildren, great-grandchildren and just leave them with the pictures that I don't have," Newell said.

The photographer explained the families of the veterans appreciate her work and are grateful to have photos honoring their loved ones who served in the military.

"A lot of these people don't have any pictures of these men, so this is all they have whenever they pass," Newell said. "So it's been really nice."

Each session, Newell said is about an hour long and the photos are taken outside her house in a field.

"Some of them will bring lots of memorabilia so that kind of changes the session up. I try to get them to bring their medals, photographs, uniforms (and) anything they've held onto," Newell said. "I've seen some really interesting things."

For Newell, one of the more challenges aspect of her sessions is the age of the veterans and organizing their families, but it's worth it in the end.

"I've seen a huge change in the community since I've been doing these pictures and brining attention to the (fact that) they're the real heroes," Newell said.

In addition to taking their photograph, Newell said she is writing a series of children's books telling the stories of these veterans.

"(They're) kind of like a biography. Whenever I taught kindergarten I was constantly having to create my own history lessons...so I think that this would be a great way to introduce (children to history)," Newell said.

The photographer is using her pictures with an illustration edit on them and hopes to finish the series soon.

While she's still taking photos of all veterans, Newell said her focus right now is Vietnam veterans.