Honor Guard

Since the opening of the World War II Memorial in 2004 in Washington, thousands of veterans have been flown in from all over the country to visit this monumental offering to the ‘greatest war’. These Honor Guard ‘honorings’ are an impressive undertaking by dedicated men and women committed to flying these octo- and nono-genarians into DC — wheelchairs and all. Charter flights, rental buses, hot meals, hotel rooms and lots of deep emotion.

I was contacted by Ann Harvey, the art director for US Airways Magazine, to spend the day with more than seventy veterans from the Cincinnati area and photograph them and their chaperones as they toured the Iwo Jima, Air Force, World War II, Korean War and Vietnam War memorials. Shoots like this are pretty loose; all we knew is that Ann hoped to get a cover and enough material to create a couple of spreads that could run to coincide with Veterans Day. With my able assistant Ezra Gregg, we were able to tag along and did our best to corral the more than 200 people who descended on the National Mall  along with the thousands of other visitors that day in August.

We met them at the airport and I was immediately struck by World War II vet Bob Schaffer and his engaging personality. Ignoring the high heat and humidity, Mr. Schaffer wore his wool jacket and cap and would salute any and all who passed before him. He conducted and sang along with the welcoming musicians at National Airport and I am thrilled to see his picture gracing the opening spread.

With so many faces and so many memories it was a challenge to reach out in any meaningful way to a single individual. But near the end of the day, as I was trying to grab as many faces as time would allow, this one fellow (one of the few without a hat — I think I know why) appeared to drop back in time to a place maybe too painful to dwell on. His eyes and demeanor gave me pause; his emotion only added to my respect.

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