Above and beyond: Air Force veteran tells stories through pictures


EDINBURG — Before he was serving the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley and its legacy institution, UT Pan American, David Clower Jr. served in the U.S. Air Force, capturing notable people and moments as a photographer.

Clower, who is the supervisor for UTRGV’s Printing Services operations in Edinburg, was stationed at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California and at the former Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, took photos of rocket launches and tests, distinguished visitors and other newsworthy events on base.

He originally trained to work as a computer programmer in the Air Force but, when he began basic training, he was told there was no job available for him in that field and he was given a list of other career options for which he could receive training.

Clower said he noticed that the training location for photography was in Pensacola, Florida.

“So I was like, ‘The beach? Florida? You can’t beat that at all,’” he said. “I had no clue, didn’t know anything about photography, but Pensacola sold me.”

Clower said he enjoys photography because it allows him to tell a story through pictures. He still works in photography, shooting photos for the Rio Grande Valley Vipers, Rio Grande Valley FC Toros and covering other sporting events.

“If you ever go back in history, you see an iconic picture that tells a story,” he said. “People can relate with a picture. I wanted to have those pictures that lived on in history that someone would see and never forget.”

His work as a photographer landed him a small role as an extra on the movie “Rocket’s Red Glare,” which starred Robert Wagner, Marilu Henner and Danielle Fishel. Parts of the film were shot at one of the bases where he was stationed. Some of his photographs also are featured in the film.

“Robert Wagner pushed for a small part for me in the movie,” he said. “I got to be a photographer … I played myself, basically.”

Clower said he is grateful for the opportunities he received while serving in the military. He was deployed in 2001 to Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and has traveled to France, Germany, Hawaii, Italy Japan and Panama during his time of service. He also credits his military experience with giving him the skills to communicate with others and work on creative projects.

After leaving the military 13 years ago, Clower moved to the Rio Grande Valley.

Clower also dabbled in graphic design while serving in the military, so when the athletics department needed someone to design promotional items, his wife, Cris De Leon, who used to work for athletics at UTPA and now works for UTRGV Information Technology, recommended her husband for the job.

“I was always interested in graphic design and, in the military, we had to put templates together, so we used (Adobe) Photoshop and I became really intrigued by how it worked.”

“I love being able to be a part of the growth of this wonderful higher learning institution,” Clower said. “I believe the pieces we print may influence the decision of a young kid that hasn’t made up his or her mind. I want to be a contributor to the success and growth of our university.”

Clower said his favorite aspect of his job is working with clients.

“I love talking with people and, a lot of the time, the conversation will go from job related to how they are doing, how is their family doing,” he said. “I get to know a lot of people. This job has allowed me to make friends.”