This Memorial Day was unlike any other that I've experienced--and even more so as a photographer here in the D.C. area. At the same time last year, I was photographing the last Rolling Thunder in Washington, D.C. for Ameriforce Media and for my friends who were participating in the event. I thought then that it was a bittersweet Memorial Day weekend as we celebrated the last gathering of its kind that had become a tradition here. Little did I know how different this year would be.
My weekend would normally consist of early days arriving at the war memorials in D.C. before sunrise each day--documenting all of the activities that happen as we remember the fallen. I would greet the National Park Service personnel and volunteers who cleaned the memorial areas of trash (and abandoned scooters) from the daily visitors each morning before the next rush of tourists arrived. I would photograph the different groups who set up temporary exhibits all along the National Mall. I would walk through each one as I read the stories of fallen service members as told by those who knew them best. And I would find camaraderie with my fellow veterans and military families who balanced both celebration and remembrance of those we had lost.
This year was more muted in our remembrance as we didn't have the large public events that mark this weekend in our nation's Capital. We watched the annual National Memorial Day Concert on PBS from our living room as part of "watch parties" on Facebook. Weekend barbecues with our neighbors consisted of bringing out our grills to our driveways and our patio sets to our front yards so that we could see each other from a distance--celebrating "together but apart." We checked in on our friends who recently lost a loved one but couldn't visit the veterans cemetery this weekend and put together remembrance cards to share. And we took the time to remind our kids again what makes Memorial Day both special and important.
What hasn't changed is the time that we've spent together as a family and the time that I've taken to remember this weekend. I once again look back in my archives of the memorials and funerals for veterans that I've been privileged to photograph. And we are still grateful for the sacrifice of our fallen service members, whether killed in action or later in life as a result of their service, as well as the loved ones that they left behind.