SEVERE WX : Red Flag Warning - Freeze Warning View Alerts
STREAMING NOW: Watch Now

A Nebraska teen's senior photos honored her father who was killed in Afghanistan

It's been "extremely, extremely" tough growing up without her father, Julia Yllescas tells CNN. "It gets harder and harder every year."Army Ranger Cap...

Posted: Aug 21, 2019 4:11 AM

It's been "extremely, extremely" tough growing up without her father, Julia Yllescas tells CNN. "It gets harder and harder every year."

Army Ranger Capt. Robert Yllescas never came home after he deployed to Afghanistan when Julia was 7 years old.

As she started her last year of high school in Aurora, Nebraska, she had a photographer edit an angelic visage of her father into her senior photos so that he could be with her during the most monumental moment of her life.

He'll be portrayed in an upcoming film

Her father was injured by an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2008. He was flown to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, where he succumbed to his injuries a month later.

He figures prominently in CNN anchor Jake Tapper's book "The Outpost: An Untold Story of American Valor," released in 2012.

Milo Gibson, the son of Mel Gibson, will play Yllescas in an upcoming film based on the book to be released later this year.

Julia said she and her mother will be in the audience at a private screening of the film in Washington this October before it hits theaters. She'll watch a scene that shows her dad walking across a bridge, a moment that ultimately leads to his death.

The photos struck a chord

Photographer Susanne Beckmann said she has taken photos of Julia since she was 9 years old.

She posted the photos on Sunday night and they were an immediate sensation on Facebook.

"This was just supposed to be something special I was doing for one of my customers," Beckmann told CNN. "I've never seen a reaction like this to my photos."

She's gotten calls from families wanting to do the same thing with photos of their lost loved ones.

Julia remembers her dad in the simple moments

More than a decade later, Julia's grief is still palpable. "It hurts and it's absolutely suffocating," she says. It can hit even in random moments, and simple things can "bring the heartache back up to the surface."

He couldn't be there for the first day of freshman year or her first breakup. He hadn't seen her perform as a cheerleader or in the school choir.

Julia remembers the moments growing up near bases in Texas and Georgia where she says her father "was a jokester" and often played tricks on her.

She also remember how she often wrestled him. "He was a good dad and always let me win," she said.

If she got a chance to see her father again, "I would ask him if he's proud of me," she said.

"And I would ask to go to the lake with him."

They loved boating and eating popsicles.

When she was a little girl, she and her dad started building a boat out of popsicle sticks, a tribute of sorts to two mutual loves.

They weren't finished yet when Robert got the call to go to Afghanistan.

The little wooden boat remains unfinished to this day. "I wouldn't feel right finishing it without him," Julia said.

But with these new senior photos, she's finding ways to still keep her father by her side.

"I can't even put into words how it makes me feel, knowing he's still with me," Julia said.

Oregon Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 41739

Reported Deaths: 653
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Multnomah9055160
Marion5733108
Washington568175
Umatilla334444
Clackamas308165
Lane232627
Malheur190938
Jackson16506
Deschutes111013
Yamhill98515
Linn79815
Polk64815
Jefferson6039
Morrow5436
Lincoln51513
Union4652
Benton4366
Klamath4083
Wasco34715
Douglas3455
Hood River2771
Josephine2633
Columbia2561
Clatsop2410
Coos2360
Baker1143
Crook1032
Tillamook700
Curry571
Wallowa422
Lake340
Harney230
Sherman180
Gilliam110
Grant110
Wheeler10
Unassigned00

California Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 903684

Reported Deaths: 17343
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Los Angeles2989376989
Riverside657571279
San Bernardino623531072
Orange583261444
San Diego54314868
Kern33775416
Fresno30590436
Sacramento25264484
Santa Clara24014388
Alameda23215460
San Joaquin21630489
Contra Costa18523241
Stanislaus17572396
Tulare17495286
Ventura14192164
Imperial12700336
San Francisco12069140
Monterey1132189
San Mateo11075159
Santa Barbara9760120
Merced9465155
Sonoma9163134
Kings821883
Solano728674
Marin7057128
Madera498174
San Luis Obispo414132
Placer408857
Yolo316658
Butte305952
Santa Cruz277125
Napa194215
Shasta184630
Sutter183712
San Benito143615
El Dorado13154
Yuba129310
Mendocino112421
Tehama8628
Lassen7661
Lake68915
Glenn6573
Nevada6088
Humboldt5629
Colusa5506
Calaveras34218
Amador32416
Tuolumne2684
Inyo22715
Siskiyou1930
Del Norte1781
Mono1782
Mariposa782
Plumas680
Modoc290
Trinity260
Sierra60
Alpine30
Unassigned00
Medford
Clear
58° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 27°
Feels Like: 58°
Brookings
Clear
62° wxIcon
Hi: 66° Lo: 50°
Feels Like: 62°
Crater Lake
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 42° Lo: 18°
Feels Like: 33°
Grants Pass
Clear
59° wxIcon
Hi: 61° Lo: 28°
Feels Like: 59°
Klamath Falls
Clear
39° wxIcon
Hi: 44° Lo: 14°
Feels Like: 33°
Critical fire danger today
KDRV Radar
KDRV Fire Danger
KDRV Weather Cam

Community Events