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Why say thank you on Veterans Day?

Years ago I had a blog where I shared my thoughts on a number of topics, the military and veterans being prominent features.  I was going through that site today and came across this posting from Veterans Day 2009.  It seems to fit as well now as it did then and want to re-share it here.

Why say thank you on Veterans Day?

A man pays his respects at Fort Logan National Cemetery. (Tony's Takes)

A man pays his respects at Fort Logan National Cemetery. (Tony’s Takes)

We set aside Veterans Day to say ‘thank you’ to our veterans for their service and for the sacrifices they have made for us and our great nation.  Sometimes though, we forget exactly what veterans have done to deserve these thanks.

Veterans have served in God-forsaken hellholes from one end of the earth to the other.  They have roasted in 120+ degree heat in the Middle East, been drenched by unending rain in the jungles of Vietnam, and suffered frostbite in the bitter cold of the Ardennes Forest.

They have stood in lines dozens deep to eat, to see a doctor and even to use the bathroom.  They have labored for days with little or no sleep.  Men and women have launched dozens of bomb-laden aircraft from the deck of aircraft carriers in a matter of hours, stood watch over the DMZ in Korea where a state of war still exists and fought bloody battles for their very lives that lasted for days.

Sailors go months without seeing land, longing for the simple pleasure of setting foot on solid ground again.

Airmen load bombs well-aware of the harm they may cause but comforted by the knowledge their cause is just.

Soldiers spend weeks on missions where their only hot meal is an MRE eaten from their helmet, longing for some of their wife’s home cooking.

Coastguardsmen stand watch from the deck of a ship protecting a homeland unaware of the dangers lurking offshore.

Marines assault a beachhead running for their lives while watching their friends fall around them.

A sailor (the author) returns home from a six month deployment. (Tony's Takes)

A sailor (the author) returns home from a six month deployment. (Tony’s Takes)

Veterans have been separated from their friends and families for weeks, months and years.   They have missed birthdays, anniversaries, and the birth of their own children.  They have missed Christmas, the 4th of July, football games and even Veterans Day.

Our veterans have called home from a far off land and heard about the broken washer and the car that won’t start and been helpless to help their loved ones back home.  They have gotten the Red Cross message telling them about their dad dying unexpectedly and felt the anguish of having to choose between going home to honor him or staying in the field to fight with their comrades.  They have received ‘Dear John’ letters while on the other side of the world, crushing the one piece of home they were clinging to.

Veterans have returned home to a country which is foreign to them, a place that has seemingly moved on while they were stuck in time.  They have found children that hardly recognize them, spouses that grew accustomed to them not being around and friends and family that don’t understand them and cannot fathom what they have seen and done.

Some have returned home to tickertape parades and adoring crowds.  Others returned home only to be spat on and called despicable names.  Many return to no acknowledgement of what they have accomplished, no one there to simply say ‘welcome home.’

Veterans have struggled to return to a normal life, not even knowing what ‘normal’ is anymore.  Veterans throw themselves into their new lives with the same sense of honor, pride and dedication they served the country with.  Others still stand on a street corner and sleep under a bridge just looking for a helping hand while battling the demons that haunt their minds.  They go to Veterans of Foreign Wars and American Legion posts across the country in an effort to recapture some of the comradeship that was lost when they left the service.

They bear the scars of their service, some visible, some not.

The Thornton Veterans Memorial in Thornton, Colorado. (Tony's Takes)

The Thornton Veterans Memorial in Thornton, Colorado. (Tony’s Takes)

They have prosthetic legs to replace the ones blown off by an IED and a six inch scar across their belly where a German knife was plunged into it.  Some walk with a limp from a shattered ankle, can’t move an arm that is paralyzed or struggle to hear their grandchildren because of a bomb that exploded next to them ruining their hearing.

Veterans stand at attention and cry when the Star Spangled Banner is played, knowing the words by heart and the true meaning behind them.  Others though cannot watch fireworks on the 4th of July because the sight and sound frightens them and brings back memories they fight to bury and forget.

They break down when remembering holding their friend as he gasped his last breath on the battlefield.  They pray to God asking that He just make the images of the horrors they witnessed go away but knowing that they will return when they close their eyes.

When you think about what you are saying ‘thank you’ for, perhaps just think about some of these things that our veterans have done.  That simple act of saying ‘thank you’ takes on renewed meaning for you and will mean more to a veteran than he can ever say.

God bless you all, God bless the United States of America and God bless our veterans!

About the Declaration of Independence

About the Declaration of Independence. A friend posted this text and it seems quite appropriate. While some may find the founding documents of our nation and the insight imparted in them malleable, I would argue as a former president did, that the Founding Fathers’ wisdom far exceeds our own and that those words are not for us to change. We would do well to remember what they went through, their sacrifices, and their thoughts that went into the words of wisdom of that declaration and our Constitution.

“About the Declaration there is a finality that is exceedingly restful. It is often asserted that the world has made a great deal of progress since 1776, that we have had new thoughts and new experiences which have given us a great advance over the people of that day, and that we may therefore very well discard their conclusions for something more modern. But that reasoning can not be applied to this great charter. If all men are created equal, that is final. If they are endowed with inalienable rights, that is final. If governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, that is final. No advance, no progress can be made beyond these propositions. If anyone wishes to deny their truth or their soundness, the only direction in which he can proceed historically is not forward, but backward toward the time when there was no equality, no rights of the individual, no rule of the people. Those who wish to proceed in that direction can not lay claim to progress. They are reactionary. Their ideas are not more modern, but more ancient, than those of the Revolutionary fathers.”
~ Calvin Coolidge, July 4, 1926

The flag of the United States of America flies proudly at sunrise. (© Tony’s Takes)

The flag of the United States of America flies proudly at sunrise. (© Tony’s Takes)

Something different but something that needs to be recognized

Want to make a veteran tear up? Give this to them.

That is exactly what happened to me yesterday. I discovered these in a tiny little Ziploc bag under the windshield wiper on my truck. It took me a minute to digest what it was but once I did, I couldn’t help but get tears.

Such a thoughtful gesture and one that I truly appreciate. So, my heartfelt thanks go out to Girl Scouts Troop 63979. God bless you and God bless America!

A thoughtful gift left under the windshield of my truck - Stars for Heroes. (© Tony’s Takes)

A thoughtful gift left under the windshield of my truck – Stars for Heroes. (© Tony’s Takes)

December 7th, 1941. A date which will live in infamy…

Today marks the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, an event that forever changed our nation. Having served in the U.S. Navy, this day and that place have extraordinary, profound meaning to me. The thought of the horrors seen the day of that despicable and cowardly attack give rise to a variety of emotions.

I had the distinct honor of visiting there twice when I was in the service: Once in August 1995 as we took part in ceremonies commemorating the 50th anniversary of D-Day and again in November 1996 when we returned from a deployment to the Persian Gulf.

It was on that last visit that I manned the rails of my ship and saluted the USS Arizona as we passed the watery grave of so many heroes. I distinctly remember hearing the whistle and then the command, “Hand salute,” and proudly raised my right hand to my brow as goosebumps came over me and tears welled in my eyes. A sobering moment, one that I will never forget.

I wish camera technology then (and my skill) was what it is now as the few pictures I have simply do not do it justice. The two images of the USS Arizona Memorial were taken by me on my visit in 1995. The other is a U.S. Navy photo of my ship, the USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70), as she passed the memorial in 1996. I am one of those figures in white manning the rails. 😉

The USS Carl Vinson passes by the USS Arizona Memorial in November 1996. (US Navy)

The USS Carl Vinson passes by the USS Arizona Memorial in November 1996. (US Navy)

The USS Arizona Memorial. Taken in August 1995. (© Tony’s Takes)

The USS Arizona Memorial. Taken in August 1995. (© Tony’s Takes)

The names of the fallen on the wall of the USS Arizona Memorial. Image taken in August 1995. (© Tony’s Takes)

The names of the fallen on the wall of the USS Arizona Memorial. Image taken in August 1995. (© Tony’s Takes)

There’s wildlife in there somewhere

One of the great parts about photography is getting to connect with other photographers. We chit chat, share tips, talk about whatever we are viewing and more. It can be a fun, social experience and almost all are courteous – almost all.

Every now and then you have someone that just doesn’t get it. Such was the case yesterday morning. I had found a nice viewing angle for some Moose when this guy walks up and sets up 10 feet directly in front of me totally blocking my angle. I said, “excuse me” and he looked back and then just kept on shooting.

There is certainly some etiquette out there and clearly this includes not blocking someone else’s shot, especially when they were there first. Thankfully these types of folks are few and far between out there in the field and in the end I did get some pretty cool images and didn’t let his rudeness ruin the day.

Blocked view. A photographer steps in the way rather than being courteous.   (© Tony’s Takes)

Blocked view. A photographer steps in the way rather than being courteous. (© Tony’s Takes)

Use of deadly force authorized

These unusual facilities dot the landscape across southeastern Wyoming and northeastern Colorado. It always seems a bit odd to find these silos out in the relative open. On one hand it is pretty cool to see but also a bit disconcerting when you think about what is inside and what could happen in a worst case scenario.

For every 10 silos there is one underground Launch Control Center (LCC) where two officers have primary control of the missiles. The LCC is what you oftentimes see depicted in Cold War era movies with the monstrous blast doors and the two guys that have to ‘turn the keys’ to launch.

If you ever find yourself in central South Dakota, check out Minuteman Missile National Historic Site where you can actually go down inside an inactive LCC and view a silo whose top has been removed. It is absolutely fascinating.

A Minuteman Missile silo stands guard on the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

A Minuteman Missile silo stands guard on the plains of Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

Top Shots of 2015

To say I took a lot of pictures last year would be an understatement. Whittling all of those images down to a manageable number to showcase was tough but here are 39 that are my personal favorites from 2015. Subject matter ranges from wildlife to urban scenes to extreme weather. As I was going through these, I was smiling and thinking about the stories behind the photos and how privileged I am to have witnessed such amazing scenes and creatures. Which ones do you like best? Feel free to share and comment.

Burrowing Owls called the PoPo on me

Burrowing Owls called the PoPo on me. Nah, not really but the two made for a very interesting morning.

I stopped to check out one of the reported burrowing owl spots just northeast of Denver International Airport. Found the pair and was having a good time taking pictures of them from my truck. I noticed an SUV with the City of Denver logo on the doors drive by a few times checking me out and figured he didn’t like me being where I was at. Note however that I was NOT in any of the restricted stopping areas that are out there – I was well outside them.

After 15 minutes or so clouds move in so I decide to move on and head back west. Sure enough, here comes a Denver Police Department SUV that promptly flips a u-turn behind me and pulls me over. Very nice guy. He explains that airport security was getting nervous because I was taking pics near airport facilities. I tell him I was checking out owls and even show him my captures from the morning. He then asks for my ID and goes back to his car to check it out.

Next thing I know two more cop cars show up (they were likely called in advance before they knew I wasn’t a terrorist and instead just a dumb photographer). They all walk up and we begin chit-chatting, showed them my pictures and one even pointed out where he had seen some eagles recently. They reiterate that the fact I was close to the airport got their attention but they also admit that I was in a perfectly legal spot parked alongside a public road so did nothing wrong.

It was a pleasant encounter for sure although I have to say this is the first time my photographic activity has caused such a stir from law enforcement. LOL! Anyway, I thought you might enjoy the story and picture.

Three Denver Police vehicles respond after I roused suspicions taking pictures of Burrowing Owls near Denver International Airport.  (© Tony’s Takes)

Three Denver Police vehicles respond after I roused suspicions taking pictures of Burrowing Owls near Denver International Airport. (© Tony’s Takes)

Tony’s Takes Flickr Photostream

To say I take a lot of pictures would be an understatement. I generally try not to overwhelm readers of this website or my various social media pages by posting too many pictures of the same subject. While I may love two dozen pictures of the same thing, I suspect some people don’t. 😉

This page has my entire Flickr Photostream embedded and shows almost every picture I take for those that want to see more of my images. At the bottom are links to go forward / back through pages of pictures.