AURORA — Julia Yllescas is learning to adjust to not having her dad at her milestone moments.
He didn't see her head off to prom this year.
And he won't be there for high school graduation, college drop-offs, or to walk her down the aisle some day.
But her father, who died from injuries sustained while deployed for the Army, did get to be part of her senior pictures.
In one of the photos, Julia holds a folded American flag and stands next to the faded silhouette of her father. The photos of the Aurora, Nebraska, teen have since made local and national news.
Julia planned to hold a framed photo of her father, Rob Yllescas, in the photos, but the photographer was able to add his image instead.
Rob Yllescas, a captain in the Army, had been deployed to Iraq twice before his first deployment to Afghanistan in 2008. While there, he was injured in a blast from an improvised explosive device. He died from his injuries about a month after the incident.
Julia, who is now a senior in high school, was 7 at the time and her sister Eva was 10 months.
"I am so happy people are getting to see who Rob was," the girls' mom Dena Yllescas-Johnston said of the photos. "You never want them to be forgotten by other people. This is a daily thing for us and all the support we're getting has meant a lot. I hope Rob is smiling down, very proud of us."
Rob and Julia were a tight-knit duo. He was always fully engaged with his daughters at home, Yllescas-Johnston said. The family enjoyed spending days on the boat together. After long days at work, Rob would make time to rough-house with Julia and eat Popsicles together.
While deployed, he sent letters and emails, and called home when he could.
Now, they talk about him often. And the "angel photos" will help keep his memory alive. They plan to do something similar for Eva's senior photos.
"It truly means everything to have him with me throughout my senior year," Julia said. "It's a big year and every daughter wants their dad involved. It's nice still having a piece of him with me, even if it's in a picture."
Yllescas-Johnston had talked with the photographer, Susanne Beckmann about the photo possibilities for a few years, but things got busy and it never happened. Senior photos offered the perfect time to try the technique.
"If something, God forbid, happens to my husband, this is something I would want for my kids," said Beckmann, who's also a military wife. "To be able to give that to (Julia) was very special on a very personal level."