Amy Peterson of Dunedin and Royale Heart of Palm Harbor are about to receive their 15 seconds of fame.
Unfortunately, neither will be there to enjoy it.
A photo of the two American soldiers is one of 120 winners in Yahoo Photo's "15 Seconds of Photo Fame" contest. The image of the two women standing in front of a camp in Kuwait will be featured on the giant Astrovision video screen in New York City's Times Square for, literally, 15 seconds.
The winning photos will appear on the screen between 2 and 2:30 p.m. today. Many of the contest winners and their friends and families are flying to New York to view their digital images flash across the famous screen seen by about 1.5-million people daily.
But by that time, Peterson, a 24-year-old staff sergeant for the U.S. Army's military police, will find herself back at Camp Wolverine, a military base in Kuwait, after some time off for rest and relaxation. Spc. Heart, 21, a gunner for the military police, is in Kuwait now.
"I was so happy and surprised that we won," Peterson said Thursday from her parents' home in Dunedin. "I really wish I could be there."
Her parents, Linda and John Chidlow, plan to fly to the Big Apple to videotape the 15 seconds of their daughter's celebrity.
"We've never been to New York so this is a good opportunity," said Mrs. Chidlow, 42. "We can't believe it. She makes us so proud. She shines at everything she does."
Peterson was home for a 15-day break from her duties overseas as part of the 317th Military Police Battalion. She left Friday for Kuwait, where she plans to remain until May. Her brother, Jason, 23, also is in the Army and stationed in Australia.
The winning photo was taken by Army Sgt. Dallas Walters of Wesley Chapel, who shot it late one afternoon in September at the camp.
"It was just a regular day at work," Peterson said.
Peterson entered the contest advertised on the Yahoo Home page last month. She sent in four photos, including one of Heart and herself with Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-New York, taken in Kuwait last November. That photo did not make the cut.
Yahoo photo director Jeff Stoddard said more than 21,000 entries were received. Winners were chosen for composition and the emotions they evoke. He said they received many military photos but the one of the two girls smiling and hugging in front of the camp was a standout.
"To see them (Peterson and Heart) express their friendship in a difficult working environment really made us all smile," he said.
Peterson is a 1997 graduate of Dunedin High School. One year after graduating, she enlisted in the Army for four years, during which she served in Germany and trained in Poland. Later she decided she wanted to become an air traffic controller and enlisted as a reservist so she could attend Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach. In March 2003, she was deployed to Kuwait. She has been to Iraq once for a mail run.
Heart, who stands behind Peterson in the winning photo, is a 2000 graduate of Palm Harbor University High School and hopes to become an officer and a lawyer. She left her criminology studies at the University of South Florida when called to active duty. As a gunner for the military police, she carries an M249, which will fire up to 200 rounds per minute.
Her mother, Samya Heart, didn't hear about the winning photo until Friday, when Royale called her with the news.
"She brightens up the whole camp, she looks happy and upbeat," said Ms. Heart, 51, about the photo. "I applaud her courage."
Although Peterson will miss her fleeting moment of fame in New York City, she said she enjoys her military career.
"Every day there is something new," she said. "I have seen so much of the world and I am only 24. It's work, but I'm having fun."
_ Information from Times files was used in this report.
To see more
The photo of Amy Peterson and Royale Heart, along with others, can be seen online at the Yahoo Photos site at http://photos.yahoo.com/
Army Staff Sgt. Amy Peterson of Dunedin holds a picture of herself, left, and her friend Spc. Royale Heart of Palm Harbor taken in September 2003 in Kuwait. Today, between 2 and 2:30 p.m., this photo will be among 120 winners in Yahoo Photo's "15 Seconds of Photo Fame" contest to be shown on the giant video screen in Times Square in New York.