There are a lot of benefits to making your living as a photographer, but one of the best is being able to meet people you wouldn’t normally come across otherwise. As many of you know, I am a volunteer photographer for the Puget Sound Honor Flight. This great organization is made of of over 150 chapters nationwide and is all volunteer. Their mission is to take every remaining World War II veteran to D.C. at no cost to them so they can see the monuments that honor their service. These guys are now 85-98 years old and most of them have incredible stories. How often do you get a chance to talk to and hear about the life of someone at that age. For me, not often. For many of these guys, this trip allows them to get closure on the experience and nightmares they witnessed over 70 years ago. To capture these moments is quite an honor.
In October, I went on my third flight. I got to know an amazing gentleman by the name of Gordon Sage. At 93, he’s a bit frail but still sharp as a tack. He’s a marine and was one of the survivors who fought at Iwo Jima. Mr. Sage is funny, friendly and kind. I saw another side of him once we got to the Iwo Jima memorial to the marines. He became quite emotional. At one point, he came up to me, in a wheelchair guided by his daughter, and handed me a piece of paper. He said he only brought two copies and wanted me to have one. On this paper, was a copy of a poem he wrote on the boat taking him away from the battle of Iwo Jima. I want to share this poem because it is because of guys like this, and countless others, that we enjoy the freedom and liberties that we have in the United States. Every day, we endure the onslaught of tales of our violent culture, inefficient government and, often, ignorant or lazy populace. But the fact remains that we live in the greatest country on earth and should count our blessings that we were born American (or was welcomed here legally) thanks, in part, to men like Gordon Sage.
Four thousand strong they lie there
Beneath their crosses white,
The heroes of this bloody lair
No more shall see the light.
O’r their graves the ensign flies
Their comrades pay respect,
But they look up with sightless eyes
No thoughts their minds reflect.
Above them shifts the bloody sand,
Below them rolls the sea.
Conquerors of this wasted land,
Champions of the free.
At home the sun shines overhead,
Some people they are gay.
They soon forgot our hallowed dead
The price we had to pay.
— Gordon Sage at Iwo Jima
Gordon, I’ll never forget. Thank you for your service.