Monday, August 02, 2010

Florida's Fallen

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I absolutely love being a photographer. It can be interesting at times because just like in the Seinfeld episode where George pitches all of his "great" TV show ideas to Corbin Bernsen while back stage, everyone has an idea for what you should be taking photos of. This is actually helpful because it always brings attention to things going on around me that I may not have noticed. Not being a full time photo journalist or sports photographer, photo opportunities and great things like this can certainly slip through the cracks as I stay busy with my other profession all while learning to be a new father. Lots of the ideas are tough to properly photograph but I listen to them all, especially when my Mom is the one with the suggestion. I listen more to her not just because she is my mother but because she has an outstanding eye.

Last week she mentioned an exhibit in the lawn of a local church and suggested I go take a look. I really had no idea what I was getting into and the only information I had was that there were quite a few white crosses and it was some type of memorial. I didn't know much but I knew that I wanted to see this and hopefully photograph it at night. I'm not sure if Mom had other things in mind when she made her suggestion but either way it was beautiful and I was thankful for the subject and the important reminder about the sacrifices that our service men and women make every day.

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The exhibit titled "Florida's Fallen" was created by Jim Vanderbleek from St. Petersburg, Florida who travels all over the state using his display to encourage us to remember those from our state who cannot fight for us any more. "Florida's Fallen" was displayed in conjunction with the 2010 Warrior Walk organized by Melissa Sanchez who is the wife of a veteran. The event was held this past Saturday at Lake Hollingsworth. The display and the walk worked perfectly with each other and raised awareness in the community while honoring those from Florida, and even our home town, who have made the ultimate sacrifice.

For more information on the event check out the Lakeland Ledger's article about Florida's Fallen and the 2010 Warrior Walk

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Since I decided I wanted to shoot this at night my wife and son were along for the ride after dinner, and off we went. The memorial was set up beautifully. The church is situated on a lake that many in our area frequent to exercise and socialize so the stillness and somberness of the exhibit was surrounded by passing cars and joggers reminding everyone not only that life goes on, but can also be cut far to short. Most importantly however, it stands as a very visible reminder to us that those who have been lost must be honored and remembered.

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I definitely did not expect the names, ages, home towns and sometimes photographs of the fallen to be right there in your face but this made the memorial even more powerful. I would see some ages and faces frozen in a military portrait and remember back to what I was doing when I was 20 or 23. Then I would think about these brave soldiers, still young men and women, who were facing the brutal realities of war at that very same young age. These are real people, with families, spouses, children, and dreams that have risked and given it all to serve our country.

While I was shooting I would occasionally look over my shoulder as my wife and 4 month old son looked on and was reminded how lucky I was to have both there with me and how lucky I was to have these people who I had never met willing to give everything to protect the freedoms my family enjoys. Enjoying this quiet moment with my family is a luxury that these brave men and women no longer have. Words cannot describe that kind of sacrifice.

My photographs do not even scratch the surface of the emotion and loss that this kind of memorial can produce. I am so very thankful for the experience and for all that our service men and women do for us every day.

Regardless of your political views, I urge everyone to remember those who are currently serving, and those we have lost to protect the freedoms we enjoy every day.

2 comments:

B said...

Tim you captured the somberness and starkness of this memorial as well as the honor and respect these fallen men and women deserve. My prayer is always that the families and friends left behind are blessed by the memorial. Your photos and words add to Jim Vanderbleek's desire for every Floridian to see this memorial so that those who have made the ultimate sacrifice will never be forgotten. Excellent job Tim!!

Tim said...

Thank you so much for your kind words! I think about the exhibit and the sacrifices that are made for me every day and I am so thankful.