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Remembering fallen friends on Memorial Day

On Saturday I stopped by Fort Logan National Cemetery to pay my respects to my dad and the thousands of other heroes that have served this great nation and are laid to rest there.

Memorial Day is, of course, not a day for all of those interred there. This most auspicious holiday is for honoring those who gave the last full measure of devotion, sacrificing their lives in service to this nation. Going there is always an emotional and humbling experience. This scene made it more so.

A man stood, motionless, staring down at one of the markers, deep in his thoughts. Was it a father? A brother? A fallen shipmate? No matter who it was, he was far more than just a marble stone. He was one of the few that had the courage to put on that uniform and stand the line against those that would harm this nation.

Our nation owes an unpayable debt of gratitude to them and their families. Take time to remember them today and give thanks for what they have done.

The Tony’s Takes photo gallery is open (to family and friends)

Part of a bit of a home improvement project we undertook recently to dress up the family room. Started by installing the rough, old-looking wood wall. Then added track lighting at the top and now just completed adding some of my ‘top shots.’

All images done on metal as I really love those. A bit pricey but well worth it. It wasn’t easy narrowing the choice of images down to 14! Hard to believe but these are actually the first Tony’s Takes pics hung in our house.

If you need some photographic art work to add to your own walls, please do let me know!

Metal prints displayed on a wood accent wall. (© Tony’s Takes)

Metal prints displayed on a wood accent wall. (© Tony’s Takes)

Metal prints displayed on a wood accent wall. (© Tony’s Takes)

Metal prints displayed on a wood accent wall. (© Tony’s Takes)

Metal prints displayed on a wood accent wall. (© Tony’s Takes)

Metal prints displayed on a wood accent wall. (© Tony’s Takes)

Metal prints displayed on a wood accent wall. (© Tony’s Takes)

Metal prints displayed on a wood accent wall. (© Tony’s Takes)

Lesson of the day: Do photography for yourself

Fantastic advice for anyone who takes pictures! I’m going to bookmark this one and watch it when I get down on myself for feeling like I am not getting the pictures I think I should.

I do always say that I participate in photography for me primarily – that’s why I don’t regularly share my pics in photo groups. It is something I enjoy and it is a huge outlet for me.

Do I like it when I get bunches of complements or my photos get shared a lot? Of course. But, the focus (pun intended) really needs to be on doing it because you enjoy it, you relish the time spent getting those captures.

Don’t worry about what other photographers are doing, don’t worry about if yours are up to snuff. Just take that picture for yourself – and enjoy the moment!

In memoriam, Deputy Heath Gumm, end of watch January 24, 2018

Tragedy struck our community last week when Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Heath Gumm was shot and killed while pursuing a suspect. My flags have been flying at half-mast since then in honor of this young man who gave his life in service to his fellow man.

Today, Deputy Gumm was laid to rest and tomorrow, my flags will once again fly high. I hope to never have to lower them again but, sadly, I know I will.

All we can do is say a prayer for the brave men and women that serve on that thin blue line and their families and let them know we appreciate them and support them.

In memoriam, Adams County Sheriff's Deputy Heath Gumm. (© Tony’s Takes)

In memoriam, Adams County Sheriff’s Deputy Heath Gumm. (© Tony’s Takes)

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)