Spirit of 45 - The 70th Anniversary of V-J Day - August 14 2015
As those of you that have been reading a lot of my recent posts, I've begun work on a WWII Veteran Photographic Series. Recently a friend of mine shared with me information about a V-J Day event taking place here in Chattanooga, TN. I'm so glad that she did! I hadn't heard of the event but it really had an amazing impact on me.
Growing up I've heard of different events such as this, but this is the first time I've gotten to attend. I honestly didn't know what to expect. I arrived about forty-five minutes before the ceremony was set to take place because I hoped to get to talk to some of the Veterans. When I first arrived I met David Cox, who happened to be performing Taps on the bugle for this event. Not only have I never been to a military event like this, I've never really shot at ceremonies other than weddings. I also shot this entire event in film only, which was another first. I was just crossing my fingers that they'd turn out.
Having no experience at an event like this, I didn't take as many photographs as I would have liked. So many of the parts of the ceremony we were standing, with our hand over our hearts. Sometimes these days we become so embittered with politics and bi-partisan fighting that we have forgotten what our country was founded on, what our men and women in the armed forces have fought for. It can be enough to really question what the whole thing is about anymore, and to be honest, I've been guilty of that myself.
Midway through the ceremony I had such a surreal moment that really just made me stop and question so much. A singer stood up and started singing our National Anthem, a song that we all have heard countless times before. Shortly into the song, softly I heard a raspy voice from where the WWII Veterans were standing start to sing. Slowly, more voices joined in. The voices weren't loud, but they were passionate. It was such a haunting experience for me hearing these men that are all pushing 90 or round about singing about their love and commitment to this great country that we have. That one moment stands out to me as not only a highlight of the event, but a highlight in my life.
Originally I went to this event hoping to visit and talk with some WWII Veterans, and hopefully meet some men for my WWII Photographic Project. Both before and after though, I sat down and just listened. I listened to grown sons, one of which served in Vietnam, talking about their dads. One had brought framed flags and such that his dad had brought back from Japan. A local school attended as part of a field trip, and while a lot of kids were goofing off, I watched as this veterans son took the time to talk and show some of the kids these WWII relics and telling them stories of his dad, and I saw these kids eyes light up and take it all in.
I watched as many of the WWII veterans gathered afterwards in the heat, waiting in a line to say a few words to Medal of Honor Recipient Charles Cooldige. He was a celebrity among these American Heroes. Look him up and read his story. It's amazing.
So while I had planned on visiting, I took the day to just take it all in. It was such a privilege to see how happy these men were seeing each other and talking, at every turn someone was talking to someone else and waiting to give out hugs and pats on the shoulder. I feel so honored to be an American. Seeing these men, not fully understanding the sacrifices that they made for us, but starting to see a glimpse of that, really makes me want to do what I can to make a difference. I hope, I pray, that some of the stories that these men are sharing, that are out there will help make a difference in your life as it has in mine. Our country hasn't always been perfect, and it's not perfect now, but we are extremely blessed to be a part of it. And we owe the freedoms that we have, to these men and women. So next time you see a Vet, please be sure to thank them for their service.
If you know of someone that served in World War II, Korea, or in Vietnam - please send me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to work with them on my Veteran project. Thank you!