Memorial Day 2013

Today is Memorial Day. This year, within the Air Force community I am part of, we have a special remembrance as we lost three tanker crew members in a KC-135 crash in Kyrgyzstan earlier this month. We haven’t experienced any fatalities in a KC-135 inflight mishap since 1999, so this feeling of loss hitting close to home is a new one for most of us in the KC-135 world. Outside the KC-135 world, I’ve lost quite a few friends in the Air Force, many of whom were fellow classmates from the Air Force Academy. One of my commanders during my pilot training 24 years ago said that losing friends is inevitable during one’s military flying career, and that certainly has become true. So I raise my glass to give a toast to all of my brothers and sisters in arms who died in the line of duty.

This is our class memorial at the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, Colorado that was funded by the Class of 1989. It is located behind Doolittle Hall, the alumni building, where memorials from other Academy classes are located. It has the names of classmates who have fallen since we graduated.
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Here are some other photos related to Memorial Day that I posted on my Facebook page…

Vietnam War Memorial in Washington, DC…
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Korean War Memorial in Washington, DC…
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Vietnam Women’s Memorial in Washington, DC…
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USAF Honor Guard statue at the U.S. Air Force Memorial in Arlington, Virginia. There are three spires there that rise up to 270 feet, but I don’t have a decent photo of them. The Air Force memorial was unveiled in 2006, and is the last memorial that was constructed after the memorials for the other armed services.
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In 2010, I visited the Lorraine American Cemetery and Memorial located in Saint Avold, Lorraine, France, during a USAF TDY. This cemetery is a the resting place for 10,849 American soldiers who died during World War II around this region, which included the Battle of the Bulge. There are several cemeteries like this throughout France and other countries which hold almost 125,000 U.S. servicemen from both World Wars. The Lorraine cemetery is the largest one of them all.
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My First One Hit Wonder

I took this photo during one of my travels with the U.S. Air Force in 2009.  I was a pilot on this KC-135 when we landed at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan while on a mission to transport military medical patients to Landstuhl U.S. Army medical center in Germany.  After we flew in, we refueled the aircraft and then onloaded about a dozen patients who arrived in this scissor-lift ambulatory transport.  While they were being transferred onto the airplane, I went outside and took as many long-exposure shots as I can, using different f-stop and shutter settings.  This one came out particularly well.  I provided the photo to the public affairs group at my home unit.  They published it on our unit website; within a week, the photo was featured on the U.S. Air Force website as a “photo of the week”…a huge honor and recognition for USAF photographers!  They even published a whole article on my crew’s experience on this trip here.  It was also published on the back cover of Airman magazine.  As a public domain photo, it is available for anyone’s use; I’ve seen the photo published inside a think tank publication that covered military air refueling issues.

This photo validated my efforts to become a serious photographer (and my investment in the Nikon D90 DSLR body which I bought about three months earlier) and gave me bragging rights. For a long time, I considered this as my One Hit Wonder, similarly to how some music performers have a single blockbuster hit, but never able to re-achieve the same level of fame ever again in their careers.  However, I did manage a second publication recently, which I will discuss in a future post.

Afghanistan Airlift

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