My first work study job while the VA was putting me in school was taking the flowers and gifts off the graves of the dead veterans at Willamette National Cemetery. I did this for a while until they assigned me the section where the men of my company were buried. Knowing the faces that belonged to those names hit me pretty hard. Especially Kenny Leisten. I remember having dinner with his dad a month after Kenny was killed. He broke down in a crowded restaurant about having to identify what was left of his son. The price paid by these men and women is too big to even think about sometimes. Surviving an event where others died messes with you. I had to quit the job at the cemetery and ask for something else. I’d been there since for a few more funeral for veterans I knew. Yesterday I went with some of the combat veterans from from Post 134, my wife, my 6-year-old daughter, and a post member who had never served in the military and was born and raised in Australia. At one time or another we were all in tears.
As soon as we got there, these war hardened men fell to their hands and knees and scrubbed the headstones of the men we knew. Seeing all the other people there from all age groups paying their respects was incredibly humbling and very powerful. I thought I’d do my best to capture the moment so maybe others can feel it if they weren’t able to make it to a veteran’s grave this Memorial Day.
Have a great Memorial Day,
Here are a few of the photos:
I made a video I’ll be posting soon with more photos.