Heros, honor, photography, soldiers, weather

Honoring our heros…

I’m so thankful that a photographer friend suggested we go to the Memorial Day ceremony at the Florida National Cemetery.  It was to be held rain or shine, and we prepared for the worst, but the weather was kind to us and it was a beautiful day for a very moving ceremony.

That it was a day of flags was obvious as soon as we entered the property.  The road was lined with flags, all gently moving in the breeze.  But as we followed the twists and turns of the road to find the parking area as we took each turn we saw field after field of grave markers, each of which were graced with a flag.  Volunteers had placed those flags the day before, and as they did they read each and every name of our deceased heros aloud.  And they did this in weather that was anything but kind.

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Flags of each state also lined the seating area.  As the Hernando High School band played a medley of all the services theme songs the veterans in the audience were asked to stand to be acknowledged, which was the first time I teared up.5-28Memorialday2The riderless horse was another emotional moment.  And as the cavalry, provided by the  Pasco Posse, marched we were treated to bagpipers playing Amazing Grace.  Yes, emotional.5-28Memorialday3Soon it was time for the 21 gun salute.  Which is extremely loud when you have a front row seat, so to speak.  I can see the smoke from the guns in this photo, it’s faint but it’s there.  Taps was played next.  A lone bugle, beautifully played…5-28Memorialday5

I’m ashamed that it took me all these years to attend a Memorial Day event.  As the daughter, wife, and mother of veterans there is no excuse.  It was a very emotional and moving sort of day.  And as I’m writing this I hear the rain pouring down.

history, honor, learning, moments, photography, soldiers, The Booksville Raid

The Brooksville Raid…

The Brooksville Raid was a Civil War skirmish that is re-enacted in Brooksville every year, and is said to be the biggest Civil War re-enactment in Florida. It recounts the landing of 240 Union troops at Bayport on July 1, 1864. Those troops then marched to Brooksville, pillaging and destroying plantations in their wake. The Confederate defenders skirmished with them, and sent to Tampa for help, but there never was an actual battle. The union troops did what damage they could and returned to Bayport and from there returned to Ft. Myers.

Charley liked to call it “the war of Northern aggression”, but then he fancied himself a southern boy. We went to the Brooksville Raid in 2013, and watched the battle but didn’t venture into the Union and Confederate camps at all. I’m not sure that we knew they were available to tour. Sunday’s photo meetup at the Brooksville Raid started when they opened the gates at 9 AM. It was to our advantage to be there so early so that we could take photographs without crowds in the background. Walking the camps went a long way to helping to imagine what a soldier’s life may have been at that time. I overheard a re-enactor explaining to another photographer that his great-grandfather had left the farm at 15 years old, and fought for all four years of the Civil War. He became a re-enactor to honor his ancestor’s service.

Once I had toured both camps, and watched the artillery demonstration there were still two hours to kill before the actual battle was going to be fought. I took pity on the dogs who would be needing to go out, so I didn’t stay for the battle itself. But I had it on good authority that the South was going to win this time. They do two re-enactments, one on Saturday and one on Sunday. I looked up the information on the raid because I was told that since the Union had won the skirmish on Saturday, the Confederacy would win on Sunday. That seemed like rewriting history until I read that I wasn’t a battle as much as a series of skirmishes. Charley was on my mind the whole time I was there. He would have been pleased to see the South prevail.

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blessings, courage, honor, memories, moments, photography, responsibility, soldiers

Remembering, with gratitude…

 

Several years ago I was traveling to visit my mother in MA, and was changing planes at BWI airport in Baltimore, and as I waited to board my connecting flight I heard a commotion several gates from where I waited. I looked to see what was happening and saw that an Honor Flight had arrived and the passengers, elderly veterans all, in matching tee shirts, were being wheeled off the the plane and through the airport. I heard applause begin and soon the terminal was lined with people, applauding and thanking these men for their service. It was such an emotional moment, and I was taken by surprise by the tears that were streaming down my face. I thought of all the times I’ve waited in the grocery store while an elderly gentleman blocked the aisle, and how we would be impatient with the elderly drivers we encounter on the streets here in Florida. It astounds me that these same men did in fact go off to a war, and endured things which we can’t imagine, and did so as young men who probably were not young at heart when they came home. If they were lucky enough to come home at all. Not many WW2 vets are left, we should treasure them. and all our vets.

Wars have changed, but the horrors that our vets see still changes them. We owe so much to the men and women who serve.

I was looking at the photos in my laptop and came across these. My cousins and I pooled our photos online several years ago, after we realized that we were now the older generation in the family. These photos look to have been taken on at my grandparent’s house. Was one of the brothers leaving, were they celebrating a return? All the brother’s, and brother-in-law, did return from the war. But seeing them all as the young men they once were, with their mother and sister, looking care free at that moment when chaos was taking place in the world, makes me both sad and proud. Everyone probably has similar family photos, with stories to go with all of them. We baby boomers owe them our lives, literally, since they endured and came home to raise their families. God bless them all.

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courage, Father's, Father's Day, honor, responsibility, soldiers

Hell On Wheels

This is the map that chronicles the path that Patton’s army, my father’s unit, took during WW2.  The map made it home from the war before my father did.  My mother said that it cost her $12, a lot of money, to have it framed, and it was hanging on the wall when my father came home.

I loved the map as a kid, when I was too young to really understand what it represented. I used to point to the town in France where my father was shot, but not returned home since it was ‘only’ a shoulder wound.  I liked to trace the cross-shaped scar with my finger, another momento of the war that I didn’t fully understand.

When my mother was downsizing to move into senior housing she gave this map to me.  Then when she visited me she didn’t see it hanging on the wall and asked where it was.  So I took her to our dental office where it was prominently displayed in the waiting room.  She was proud to see it hanging there.  Lots of conversations were sparked by that map hanging there.  The image that is burned in my head though, is walking into the waiting room and seeing a little old man, a patient, standing on one of the wooden waiting room chairs facing the map, only a foot or so from it, studying it close up.

Another patient’s name was on a plaque at the neighborhood Catholic church honoring the local heroes who were killed in action during the war.  He actually was a POW and returned, but his name stayed on the plaque.

I’m remembering being at BWI airport in Baltimore when the passengers on an honor flight disembarked and entered the terminal.  Little elderly men in matching t-shirts, most being wheeled in wheelchairs powered by escorts also in matching t-shirts.  Everyone stopped, and clapped as they rolled by.  Tears flowed.  Little elderly men, the kind that you tolerate when they are telling you a long-winded story the details of which you didn’t grasp because you really weren’t paying attention, who saw things we of younger generations could not imagine.

My mother and I attended my son Michael’s graduation from Air Force boot camp quite a few years ago now..  We attended church with all the young, clean cut, beautiful, ‘kids’, who would take the place of those elderly former soldiers.  There was much hilarious teasing of the cadets who were in various stages of their training.  My mother and I laughed so hard we cried.  Then they asked for all the veterans in the church to stand up, and they did.  Some stood at attention in military uniforms having made a career out of serving our country, but they were far out numbered by the t-shirt wearing, pot-bellied, Dads, there to see their sons, and daughters too, be sworn in to serve their country.  Those young people leaped to their feet and cheered with all their might, honoring those men who served just as they were about to serve.  Now my mother and I were crying for real.

My father was the proverbial ‘nice guy’.  I loved him dearly, as did everyone who knew him. He never talked about the war, wasn’t much of a talker at all really.  But one thing he did say was that he’d really like to have a grandson named Mike.  Glad I gave you that Dad.

Happy Father’s Day.