The lobby of Inter-State Studio in Sedalia has taken on a patriotic feel through the summer as armed service veterans and the families of veterans and active duty personnel lent personal photos to a display in honor of those who have and are serving in the military.
Inter-State, which has been headquartered in Sedalia for some 80 years, employs about 1,250 employees in 30 states with about 300 full-time employees in Sedalia. The company is the largest family-owned school photography and yearbook company and produces a range of school-related products.
Sheila Lassiter, a quality assurance manger in Sedalia, said the company typically changes out photographic displays in the lobby on a sessional basis, often based around prints produced by employees. She said what began as a simple Memorial Day-themed idea to honor employees who are veterans grew to include 53 photographs representing personnel who served in conflicts from Word War II to the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“Once the decorating committee started and word spread, people seemed to really respond. We are a close group here and I think everyone got excited about an opportunity to honor the troops and our veterans,” Lassiter said.
She credited the company’s decorating team of Kim Harness, Sharon Hejtmanek and LeAndra Casdorph with what proved to a popular idea among Inter-State employees.
Hejtmanek, whose two sons, Cody and Kyle, are both serving in the Army and have both deployed to South Korea and Afghanistan, respectively, said the group was planning their summer display when she started thinking the team should do something to honor military personnel associated with the company. Like many of the employees whose family members have or are deployed, she said she was touched by the strong reaction of her co-workers.
“Looking at the wall once it was done I looked at these pictures from World War II and Korea and Vietnam and I really started to feel a connection to all those other mothers and the sacrifices they made and their families made for all of us,” Hejtmanek said.
That connection was also felt by Roman Albin, an Inter-State fulfillment lead who joined the Coast Guard after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks and helped with rescue and relief efforts in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina; and, by Jim Rissler, a retired Inter-state employee who served in the Navy during World War II.
Albin praised the company for being supportive of him and his service, and had similar praise for the support employees showed to veterans and their families.
“It means a lot to know that they understand and respect what vets and their families have to go through,” Albin said.
Rissler agreed, saying the display reminds everyone of the sacrifices made by those who deploy and those who maintain homes and families in their absence.
Lassiter said the company expects to keep the display up through the Sept. 11 anniversary.