Marines in winter at a full Honors ceremony, Arlington National Cemetery - Photo by Tracey Attlee
Anyone who professionally photographs full military Honors ceremonies at Arlington National Cemetery will tell you it is among the hardest two hours of work a photographer can ever have, physically and emotionally. In fair weather, Arlington is a lovely nature preserve with impeccably tended gardens and grounds. But when icy winds howl as rain, hail or snow rage down from the skies Arlington becomes quite another place. For the photographer, it becomes a fight just to work. The first problem becomes keeping your electronic cameras dry. You've got to hold a golf umbrella over your digital cameras while you shoot so they don't short out. Try that in gusting winds when its raining sideways.
Meanwhile, the military escorts, teams and firing parties have their own demons while making a beautiful, lasting tribute of each Honors ceremony. Once Navy personnel arrive in their gleaming whites they must stay on the grounds all day long. Yes, they have a bus, but that is their only refuge. No going back to the barracks to get dry or thaw out. Just stay on the bus and shiver until the next ceremony. And those sharp looking Marines? They have a bus too. And that is where they stay all day long in between ceremonies. Standing up! They even eat their lunch standing up. Yes, Marines are ordered to stand up all day long so their dress slacks and tops do not wrinkle. That's how they stay so sharp looking. Freezing temperatures during the ceremony? Ear muffs might be nice but you'll never see them on a Marine. Impressed with the gleaming tack and shining coats of the horses in the Army Caissons? Army Caisson personnel arise every morning at 4:30 a.m. in order to groom the teams of horses then shine, polish and prepare tack, boots, hooves and uniforms for a day of Honors ceremonies.
This note is to say Thank You to all military personnel who make each Honors ceremony special, beautiful and unforgettable for grieving families. Your sacrifice and efforts are noticed and appreciated!