Grasp The Moment Photography

Veteran’s Day

I used to tell this neat little lie when I was a kid.

See, my birthday is November 12th. Veteran’s Day is the day before. Schools are closed, as are banks, government offices, etc. When I first joined a union, it was floating holiday, but I think we gave it up for the day after Thanksgiving or some other day that was more convenient to be off. I grew up with a dad that always told us trivial historical facts, dates, names, places, etc, stuff that never really got you anywhere except when you knew that November 11th was Veteran’s day before the rest of the kids in your class did. I of course told my whole class one year that the school was closed so my parents could get ready for my birthday.

I don’t know if it worked ever, but it made me feel cool.

Today’s Veteran’s day, and yes, I know what tomorrow is, I rather not be reminded. I have too many bad birthdays to enjoy them any more.

Today I had off, not because of a union contract, rather because I am one of the millions of newly unemployed Americans. So after I went on another fruitless interview this morning, I decided to head to the New York Veteran’s Day Parade. Today was a special Veteran’s Day in New York. The USS Intrepid, a World War II aircraft carrier that served as a museum was rededicated by the President Of The United States. Afterward, the parade would stroll down Fifth Ave. I was too late for the ceremony, and knew I couldn’t get close enough anyway, so I set off for the parade.

I got there shortly after the start of it, and found a nice spot across from the main viewing stand. The crowds were deep, and it was mostly a crowd that stopped by on their lunch break. They were enthusiastic, and cheered as the parade came by. I moved around and shot as I had with countless parades. I tried my best to capture the jubilation and excitement on faces, in movements. I found myself at an intersection, where a member of the NYPD control pedestrian traffic. I looked around, then slipped behind him into the parade route, on the other side of the barricades. I didn’t turn my back to see if he noticed, but I did hold up my camera, as if to show I had it, and to try to show I belonged there.

Once inside the parade itself, I went “butt-ass-wild” taking shot after shot of participants as well as viewers. I was lost in the moment, caught up in the excitement of it all.

Then I saw Smitty.

I don’t even know if that was his real name, but I noticed it was sown on his jacket. He stood against the railing, American flag tucked unto his buttons. His eyes were red, and he chocked back the tears as he watched everyone stream by. I turned to see what he was looking at, and all I could see was the parade. I looked back at Smitty and I realized maybe what he was seeing, was not only the parade, but what wasn’t at the parade. Those who weren’t there today. Maybe those who didn’t have time to come and cheer. Maybe those who were off, and would rather be loafing on the couch then battle the fall wind and head into Manhattan. Maybe he was seeing the men and women who never made it home to be in a parade like this. I’ll never know. I raised my camera and took Smitty’s picture. I reached out and shook his hand. “Thank you.” I said. He nodded and I moved on, capturing what was there, and never forgetting what wasn’t.

Thank you.

2008 Veteran's Day Parade 042

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I took a lot of shots… too many to put them all here. Enjoy this slideshow of all my 2008 NYC Veteran’s Day Parade images


10 responses

  1. Jenn

    So moving! So inspiring!
    The words “we will never forget”-
    be it 911, a world war, terrorism,
    any of the plethora of F’ed up horror going on in this world at any given moment-
    these images bring that one extraordinary phrase to mind.
    I’ll never presume to know the feeling in the hearts of those men,
    never know the loss Smitty feels, even now.
    Flags waving,
    voices cheering,
    eyes tearing.
    I feel a pride that tugs at my heart, for all of these Vets you so admirably captured.
    You’ve done justice to the mood of this occasion,
    And it continues to ring as I watch-
    We Will Never Forget….

    November 12, 2008 at 12:02 am

  2. In America, we enjoy the freedom of giving half our income to the government through various forms of taxes. We have the freedom to participate in a Ponzi scheme known as Social Security. We have the freedom to vote for the president. Unlike the voters of Iraq under Saddam Hussein, who only had one choice for president, we have two choices! We have the freedom to choose between Republican-led big government programs and Democrat-led big government programs. We have the freedom to use government-controlled money, which loses value every year. We have the freedom to subsidize the poltically-connected agricultural, automotive, and banking industries. We have the freedom of sending children through the compusory government-run education system, and then pay for job training for those that get through 12 years of schooling and still don’t know how to do anything. We have the freedom to own guns, provided that said gun is approved by the government and we pass the government-mandated background check. If we get the appropriate permits and stand in then proper free-speech zone, we have the freedom to protest.

    Thanks to all the veterans that defended these freedoms and kept them from being taken away!

    November 12, 2008 at 1:40 am

  3. suehenryphotography

    Powerful. Moving. Fitting tribute.

    You are not only a gifted photographer but story teller as well. Thank you for challenging us to pause, ponder, and appreciate the service of those veterans who gave so much for us and our country.

    And, Happy Birthday friend!

    November 12, 2008 at 8:11 am

  4. Nicely captured. Not the same stature as those pictured, but I’m a veteran never the less. And I can feel the emotion you captured. The image you have displayed is very moving. The composition portrays ‘freedom’.

    November 12, 2008 at 11:56 am

  5. Fred

    This is hands down some of the best work I have seen from you. Very, very moving and from this old veteran I say thanks for taking the time out of your day for doing this.

    November 12, 2008 at 3:57 pm

  6. You’ve had too many “bad birthday’s” too?! Interesting. The last 4 I could have done without. I’m hoping this year it’s a bit better. Happy Birthday! I’m glad I stopped by here today. 🙂

    Great photos of the Veteran’s parade. I think that was probably the ideal thing to do after that interview. Something will work out.

    November 12, 2008 at 10:59 pm

  7. John (Dad)

    I wish I knew what was on Smitty’s hat. Having spent some time in the military – but being far from America’s ideal soldier – I also feel that choked-up feeling of patriotism that parades bring out. These photos tell a great story. Great work, as usual. Happy birthday! (Where the hell did all those years go?)

    November 12, 2008 at 11:41 pm

  8. StKev

    Happy Birthday! LOL!

    November 14, 2008 at 1:32 am

  9. JRP

    Brian – wonderful moving series of a very important day in our nation.

    November 20, 2008 at 1:19 am

  10. I love the processing in these shots!!

    Fantastic, Brian!!

    December 18, 2008 at 10:01 pm

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