Posts Tagged ‘army

24
Nov
10

What are you thankful for?

Sgt. Everett Yeckley, second from right, looks back after escorting a tearful Latonya Holmes before the arrival of her husband, Sgt. David Holmes' body at Sandersville Airport, Wednesday, July 7, 2010, in Tennille, Ga.

As I sit in the Waynesboro McDonald’s trying to waste some time between assignments down here in Burke County, (whoever thinks this is a glamorous job need only spend a week with us out on the road to see that we photogs eat TERRIBLY – on the go and wherever we can, usually fast food), I’m tempted to talk about Thanksgiving a little, this the day before the big turkey day.

Last July, I wrote a quick note on my Facebook group about the work I was doing with fellow writer Adam Folk focusing on the Army’s casualty assistance program.  We covered for the daily paper, and I posted something here about it – and how the widow’s screams were quite haunting during her husband’s arrival on a chartered flight from Dover, Delaware in a casket draped with the American flag.  It finally ran on Veterans Day with photos I had been sitting on since the summer.  I’m glad they found a home in the paper and online, because these were very moving images from a very moving experience for all involved, including me.  As photographers we do our best to illustrate and document what is going on, but there are a few rare occasions where photos, video, nothing can really relate what it was really like.

Sgt. Everett Yeckley, right, and Master Sgt. Vincent Grissom, left, help Latonya Holmes to the funeral service for Sgt. David Holmes at New Birth Christian Ministries, Friday, July 9, 2010, in Tennille, Ga.

Sgt. Everett Yeckley, left, looks on as Latonya Holmes, second from left, is consoled by Master Sgt. Vincent Grissom, as the body of Sgt. David Holmes is prepared to leave New Birth Christian Ministries after funeral services, Friday, July 9, 2010, in Tennille, Ga.

It is stories like these that make me thankful for what I have.  It’s the story of the husband who dedicates his life to the caregiving of his aging wife suffering from Alzheimers as she slowly loses the memories that effectively makes up their 38-year marriage.  It’s the story of a grieving mother who has lost her son in an instant of senseless violence.  Or the man who sits on a curb while his small house and everything he owns burns inside. 

These are the moments that, when I see them, I take a quick pause to realize how lucky I am, and I’m grateful for it.  Yes it’s part of life – that amazing thing we call life – with it’s highs and its lows and the total unpredictable nature of…nature.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

Sgt. Everett Yeckley, right, holds Latonya Holmes' hand as he tries to comfort her during the arrival of Sgt. David Holmes' body at Sandersville Airport, Wednesday, July 7, 2010, in Tennille, Ga.

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12
Nov
10

Veterans Day

Members of the Westside High School marching band perform during the Veterans Day parade, Thursday, November 11, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

The weather was perfect, the light was nice, and the long shadows created by buildings and trees made for some different and exciting photos of an otherwise, and this by no means I don’t like them, completely overshot event in the photojournalism world: parades.

At first glance, anyone with a visual tendency will recognize that parades offer a range of things to shoot, no matter what it’s about – Veterans Day, Christmas, Thanksgiving, St. Patrick’s, whatever.  People are dressed up, there’s usually floats, cars, happy onlookers, etc.  The list is pretty long.  Photojournalists take pictures of people doing things, and there is a lot of that going on at parades. 

So I guess that’s why parades remain probably the single most covered (in terms of photography) community events in the U.S.  And as a result, original images are very hard to come by.  Ask any photographer and he or she can give you a list of parade pictures they’ve shot or seen shot: candy throwing, Shriners doing donuts in go-karts, troops marching, bands playing, onlookers waving, parade walkers waving,  drunk Irishmen waving, floats with people waving and in the case of Christmas, Santa waving.  Done and done.  Such is a pj’s life.

So, I went into yesterday’s Veterans Day parade expecting to find cliches and a mission to avoid them as much as possible.  Luckily, the weather cooperated and the low humidity provided crisp sunlight and very blue skies – two factors that truly improve photos.  This simultaneously energized me to find some new angles or moments, and made those cliche shots bearable to shoot, knowing they were at least well lit and purdy-like.

So there you have it.  Another Veterans Day parade in the books.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

Children from Curtis Baptist daycare wave small American flags during the Veterans Day parade, Thursday, November 11, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

 

Members of the military march during the Veterans Day parade, Thursday, November 11, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

Patricia Haley holds a photograph of her father, who was a World War II veteran, during the Veterans Day parade, Thursday, November 11, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

Students from Curtis Baptist Elementary watch the Veterans Day parade, Thursday, November 11, 2010, in Augusta, Ga.

16
Jul
10

Fallen Hero

Honor guard pallbearers carry the casket containing Sgt. David Holmes's body to New Birth Christian Ministries, Wednesday, July 7, 2010, in Tennille, Ga. Rainier Ehrhardt/Staff

Reporter Adam Folk and I are working on a long term project about the Army Casualty Assistance program at Ft. Gordon.  Active duty military are selected to be part of a group called to support grieving family members of fallen soldiers.  On June 26th, 2010, Sgt. David Holmes was killed in Afghanistan by an improvised explosive device.  A few days later we were notified of the death and that a CAO (Casualty Assitance Officer) had been assigned to Holmes’s widow, who lives in Tennille, Ga.  As a result, I drove down there twice last week to photograph the CAO doing his duty as best he could as he held the grieving wife’s hand along the way.

It was difficult for those in attendance on Wednesday for Sgt. Holmes’s arrival from Dover, Delaware (over 100 military, Patriot Guard, friends, family and total strangers holding small flags).  Mrs. Holmes was inconsolable and on several occasions had to be helped as she screamed David’s name and “why,” everytime she was near the American flag-draped casket.  The pain of being reunited with her husband under the worst circumstances could be heard by us all but never fully felt by anyone but Mrs. Holmes. For nearly 10 minutes, she screamed from the limo.  She couldn’t get out of the car.  Military personnel held their salutes and the Patriot Guard remained as still as possible as their flags waved.  Entire families remained motionless as they looked on.  Some cried.  Sniffles could be heard. The realities of war had hit home.  It was by far one of the hardest things for me to witness and photograph.

But throughout the short arrival ceremony, in which the Honor Guard pallbearers carried the casket from the plane to the hearse to be transported to the church, there was an air of absolute and undeniable solidarity felt with Sgt. Holmes and indeed with Mrs. Holmes.  And as I drove behind the motorcade headed for the church in Tennille, people lined the four-lane highway, some with large American flags, some with their hands over their hearts.  Ex-military saluted the hearse standing tall and proud.  It was like they had been waiting for us all afternoon.  McDonalds workers stood in front of the store in solidarity.  Even a local oil changing place had taken pause, with mechanics removing their hats.  Cars coming from the other direction not only stopped but many drivers got out to stand as the hearse drove by.

An entire town had come to a halt to honor a fallen hero.  Some didn’t even know him, but that didn’t matter.

You could call it a rural thing, a Southern thing or an American thing.  I call it a wonderful thing.

A small gallery from Sgt. Holmes’s arrival:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/multimedia/2010-07-07/photo-gallery-fallen-…

Note:  Unfortunately, I can’t post most of the photos yet because it’s still a work in progress.  But it’s a story worth telling.  And waiting for.  Stay tuned.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

22
Jun
10

balloon release

Jahsaan Bryant, 10, releases baloons with friends during activities to celebrate the Army's 235th birthday, at the Child, Youth and School Services at Fort Gordon, Friday, June 18, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Last Friday was a busy day for me.  I spent the day at Fort Gordon, for the 3rd time that week, to shoot the Atlanta Falcons cheerleaders (and a few players too, but who was paying attention to them, I mean lets be honest).  Since Fort Gordon is considered a bit of a haul for us, not to mention dealing with the security that goes with a federal Army base, we like to consolidate assignments on whatever day the photographer is present so that we minimize how many times we have to go out there.  This meant I had something else to shoot, only minutes after the cheerleaders were scheduled to land in Blackhawk helicopters.

Long story short, after waiting for an hour in the sun at Engineer Field, I quickly grabbed a few shots of the cheerleaders.  Then, the public affairs specialist, Siobhan, escorted me to the Child, Youth and School Services where they were conducting events for the children to celebrate the Army’s 235th birthday.  We thought we were late, but luckily, upon our arrival, the kids were just finishing up their hand-made decorated kites and waiting for the balloon release.  This was something I had previsualized.  I knew I wanted hands, balloons and sky.  It ended up better than I could have hoped, since the floating balloons created a nice background for the kids and hands.  The layering really invites the eye to move around the frame.

Now, about those cheerleaders.  Here’s a link to the photo gallery on the Augusta Chronicle website:

http://chronicle.augusta.com/multimedia/2010-06-18/photo-gallery-falcons-visit-fort-gordon

There’s just something inherently funny about primping cheerleaders and loud Blackhawk choppers.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com

06
May
10

National Day of Prayer

I’ll be the first to admit I’m a sucker for silhouettes.  Some would argue it’s cliché, or it’s just something photographers use from their “bag of tricks.” But what a tool it can be.

When it’s used correctly and in the right setting, it can be so effective in conveying a situation.  It also makes the image instantly readable without the “clutter” of having faces, or things to draw the viewer’s eyes away from the moment.  Plus, it’s striking. More impactful.  I don’t know. It’s one of those aesthetic things.  Soft early morning light never hurts either.

Members of the military and civilans bow their heads in prayer this morning during the Fort Gordon National Day of Prayer Observance Ceremony, Thursday, May 6, 2010, in Augusta, Ga. RAINIER EHRHARDT/STAFF

Before the ceremony, I saw the flags and the soldiers congregating nearby.  A bit of previsualization and it turned out pretty nicely.

For astute readers of this blog, you’ll notice this is reminiscent of the JROTC photo I posted in April here.  Is it just the nature of those two assignments, or am I already a broken record? Oops, I’ll get on that.

For more photos of my two assignments for National Day of Prayer, see the slideshow on the Augusta Chronicle’s website.

-RAE

www.rainier-ehrhardt.com