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Military

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)

Hold your breath: U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds opposing pass

Today one of the Thunderbirds crashed after performing at the United States Air Force Academy graduation this afternoon. Thankfully it appears the pilot is okay and the crash occurred in an open field so no other people were injured or property damaged.

In a stunning coincidence on the same afternoon,  Capt. Jeff Kuss was killed when practicing a U.S. Navy Blue Angels performance in Tennessee.

These men and women may perform for ‘entertainment’ and it may not be combat but that doesn’t make what they do any less dangerous. Pushing a supersonic combat figher aircraft to its limits has its risks, big risks.

This image was taken last year on May 31 at the Rocky Mountain Airshow in Aurora, Colorado.

The USAF Thunderbirds perform the breathtaking opposing pass in 2015.  (© Tony’s Takes)

The USAF Thunderbirds perform the breathtaking opposing pass in 2015. (© Tony’s Takes)

A seemingly endless sea of stone

A seemingly endless sea of stone. One more from my visit to Fort Logan yesterday. Each marker represents a dad, a mom, a son, a daughter… All served this nation and all worthy of honor and respect.

Fort Logan National Cemetery's headstones are decorate with flags for Memorial Day.  (© Tony’s Takes)

Fort Logan National Cemetery’s headstones are decorate with flags for Memorial Day. (© Tony’s Takes)

Heroes honored with flowers, flags and stone

I stopped by Fort Logan National Cemetery yesterday to pay my respects to those who have made the ultimate sacrifice in service to this great nation. As always, it was a very emotional visit for me but one that I believe is required of every American. General George Patton said, “It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.” That is a fitting statement as we are forever in their debt and acknowledging these brave men and women is the least we can do.

Flowers, flags and stone at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado on Memorial Day.  (© Tony’s Takes)

Flowers, flags and stone at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Denver, Colorado on Memorial Day. (© Tony’s Takes)

Old Glory at sunrise

I may be old fashioned but when I see our nation’s colors flying, I can’t help but get a patriotic feeling. I think back to the places that flag has been, the things it has seen, the hope it brings to people across the world and of course the men and women who have sworn their allegiance to it and served under it.

Throw in a typically gorgeous Colorado sunrise and have that flag flying at Fort Logan National Cemetery and your heart skips a beat. My dad is interred there, as are thousands of others, and while each visit is special, moments like this one this past Saturday make it just a bit more special and poignant.

The United States flag is backlit by a beautiful sunrise at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Colorado. (© Tony’s Takes)

The United States flag is backlit by a beautiful sunrise at Fort Logan National Cemetery in Colorado. (© 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)

Veterans Day 2015

General Norman Schwarzkopf famously said, “It doesn’t take a hero to order men into battle. It takes a hero to be one of those men who goes into battle.”  Today, Veterans Day, we honor the brave men and women who wrote that blank check to Uncle Sam,  payable with their own blood.

From the birth of our nation to a devastating war that would pit brother against brother and threaten to tear the country apart, veterans have served.

From a time when a cowardly attack at Pearl Harbor woke a sleeping giant, to another, similarly devastating event 60 years later on our shores in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington DC, veterans have answered the call.

Not all have served in combat but they have served with distinction and honor.  These men and women are the real “1%” – the ones who have stood up for something greater than themselves.

They chose not to whine or cry about the hand life dealt them nor did they sit idly by and blame their failures and inability on others.  Instead they saw an opportunity to serve the greater good.  They  donned the nation’s uniforms proudly and bettered themselves, served their fellow man and defended freedom across the globe.

The legacy of these men and women is seen not only in the peoples they liberated and protected but also close to home.

I am honored to have served this nation and, more so, am humbled at the deeds of those who came before me, those I served with, and those who continue to serve today.  They are my brothers and sisters in arms – my shipmates – and I thank them all for their service and sacrifice.

Happy Veterans Day!

Veterans Day.  Thank you for your service, your sacrifice and our freedom. (© Tony’s Takes)

Veterans Day. Thank you for your service, your sacrifice and our freedom. (© Tony’s Takes)

Thunderbird Thursday

These birds fly a bit faster and higher than the ones I normally photograph.

With the US Air Force Thunderbirds in Denver, Colorado this past weekend for the Rocky Mountain Airshow, I of course had to snap a few pictures. Okay, I took more than just a few, but here is a look at some of my best images of this amazing aerial demonstration team.

This was the first time photographing high-performance military aircraft for me since I was in the Navy so it was a bit of a challenge but lots of fun.

Mirror, mirror

I know these aren’t the typical kind of birds I post pictures of but they are the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds? after all. Taken today at the The Rocky Mountain Airshow? here near Denver.

Here, the two solo birds come together, one inverted. You’ll have to indulge me for sharing some of these images in the coming days.

I was in the Navy and worked on jets during my time in the service so aviation is something that has always been of great interest to me. Granted, I am partial to the U.S. Navy Blue Angels? but since neither team has been to the area in so long, I was ecstatic to get a chance to see one of them again. ?

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds solo jets perform a flyby with one inverted. (© Tony’s Takes)

The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds solo jets perform a flyby with one inverted. (© Tony’s Takes)