As a photographer, I tend to want to capture moments and events that are both small and large. I was the photographer at my sons’ weddings, but I was also the photographer at my father-in-law’s veteran memorial. I cried behind my lens at all three events.
My father-in-law was a retired military officer serving over 30 years with the United States Army and had incredibly good friends at the Odessa VFW Post. The honor guard made sure that Master Sergeant Donald M. Heater was memorialized through their chaplain’s address, the 21-gun salute, and the flag presentation to his daughter. If you have never seen the folding of the flag firsthand, let me tell you, it is done with precise movements by caring hands, and the bugle playing in the background is sure to send chills down your spine.
Our private ceremony was attended to by immediate family and a few close friends. None of us had ever attended a flag presentation and I was honored to have been asked to capture this event. It was an experience I will never forget. There were very few dry eyes in the room after witnessing the flag being presented to his daughter. We all filed out and witnessed the 21-gun salute, collectively flinching with each consecutive shot. The shells were collected, and some were inserted between the folds of the flag, where they remain.
It was nice to hear from the few that were in attendance, telling stories and sharing memories of a man that was held in such high regard. The final, slow-motion salute was something I had only ever seen in movies and, for me, was incredibly poignant.
I have the utmost respect for our men and women in uniform, past, present, and future. Their sacrifices often go unnoticed so I’d like to take this moment to thank each and everyone of them from the very bottom of my heart. Without you, we would simply not be.
Please don’t forget to have your upcoming event photographed. Large or small, they are equally important. There are so many small details that you will either not notice or that you will forget.