ABC7 Salutes photographer who preserves legacies of World War II veterans

Preserving the legacies of World War II soldiers is the mission of photographer Zach Coco. He wants to make sure their stories of bravery and sacrifice are never forgotten.

Even before you enter his home, you see the pride that Paul Martinez has for serving his country. A brass plaque with an American eagle and military insignia graces is front door.

"Besides my family, that's the best thing I ever did," Martinez said.

With less than 3 percent of World War II veterans still living, photographer Coco wants to capture as many stories still left to tell.

"My goal is to try to interview and photograph as many World War II veterans as I can. This project is a legacy preservation project. I want to make sure that the sacrifices that they made are not forgotten," Coco said.

Martinez looks at photos and recounts the horrors faced on the battlefield.

"I lost three of my closest buddies in that operation," he said. "Actually, right now, I think I'm the only guy out of our company that's left."

Coco says the passage of years is a big part of his motivation to continue the work of documenting these important stories.

"Time is the biggest obstacle right now to make sure that we preserve their stories," Coco said.

Although Coco has interviewed over 70 veterans so far, he plans to keep going until he has interviewed every last surviving veteran of World War II.

Coco explains that his grandfather is his inspiration for the project.

"He was a veteran of World War II, in the Navy," he said. "And he passed away a few years ago, and I never really seized the moment to capture his story, so I want to make sure that I can preserve as many memories and sacrifices that these men and women made to ensure our freedom today."

Right now, Coco's nonprofit, which is called Pictures for Heroes, has been focused on capturing World War II-era veterans in Southern California.

But his goal is to raise enough funds to be able to expand and interview veterans all across the country. He hopes by fundraising through a GoFundMe, he'll be able to accomplish this goal.

It's a mission he plans to take on as a tribute to his grandfather.
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