Posts Tagged ‘holmes

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