Tuesday, May 31, 2011

MEMORIAL DAY WITH PAPPA DI

Meet my Pappa Mike Di Domenico.  We are a family with a long line of veteran pride. But on this Memorial Day we spent our time making sure this WWII veteran made it to a special honor in Sierra Madre.  We weren't sure he would make it to the flag draped cemetery ceremony, he had been in the hospital for a week. But as luck would have it,OK my sister Pam really wanted him to be there, because he was going to be honored. So it wasn't luck, but a sentimental sister and doctor who thought, this soon to be 96 year old, shouldn't miss this Memorial Day Service.  Time was ticking, he was discharged and went from the halls of the hospital to the scene at the cemetery in 30 minutes. 
As attendees wondered the small cemetery glancing at the tombstones marked with with flags, wondering about the lives of those lost, Pappas face appeared deep in thought.  
Not sure about what, but soon his fellow VFW members from post 3208, lightened his load. Their faces show a special bond, held together by pride, camaraderie and stories in the trenches.
 
For WWII vets there is also the ever present reality that too few of "The Greatest Generation" remain. 
 A post commander whose patriotic elegance is clearly seen as he salutes the flag...
The jarring sounds of a 21 gun salute...
This Memorial Day was filled with American Pride everywhere we looked at this hillside service. But for Pappa, a shy quiet man, it was about to become more memorable than he ever imagined. You see as his fellow veterans held their frail friend up...
 ...one speaker was preparing to mention Pappa by name.  The time is now to honor those members of what Veteran News Broadcaster Tom Brokaw coined "The Greatest Generation" before they are all gone. as Pappa heard his name he wasn't sure what was going on.  His buddy Bud said they are talking about you Mike. 
I think Pappa responded Oh NO!!  More attention that he is comfortable with.
Then a smile that I won't soon forget grew across his face.
Yep this is what I think my sister really wanted to see, and for me tears melted across my face. In true Pappa fashion today he held court...
sang the Star Spangled Banner as he waved his broad stripes and bright stars...
 and then at the end of this once in a life time moment, his smile grew even wider as his Priest, the Mayor, friends and strangers alike came up to say THANK YOU for your service Mike. This is why I'm a photographer.
My sister was beaming, my brother in law held him lovingly and I just kept photographing what I knew was a moment in our family history, one that I wanted to freeze in time. Was he happy that he came to this Memorial Day program straight from the hospital, you decide.
THANK YOU VFW POST 3208 for you truly represent the "Land of the Free and The Home of The BRAVE!"  It was a privilege for this Veteran TV Journalist and creative force behind Debra Snell Photography to witness and capture these important images for Memorial Day 2011.

"Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul."
                                                                                -Michel de Montaigne


8 comments:

Michael said...

D. Thanks for sharing.
We are losing tese heroes at a rate of 1000 per day. My pop (a young 85 ompared to Mikes 96 years) fought at the Battle of the Bulge after which he spent time as a 19 year old Jewish POW in a GermAn Stalag is also not comfortable with this type of recognition. Our fatherz generation lived by wall silent and carry a big stick. They are hereos not only to us bit to Erican a free people everywhere. Bless your father for his service and you for knowimg the story needs to be told

Anonymous said...

Debra,
What a wonderful story, and a testimony of a special man, so dear to your heart. God allows these moments, and in his perfect timing allows everything to work, only as he can do. What a special moment in time for your dad, and your family. I'm deeply touched, and share in your proud,and special time. God bless you, and your family, and God bless America.

Paul Z.

Pam said...

Debra,
You captured the time at the Memorial Day Service so wonderfully. I know because I was there with tears streaming down my face right next to you. Your eye for taking pictures is amazing. The words that went with your fabulous photographs are touching. We never know what tomorrow may bring so we need to cherish each and every day and celebration. This day belonged to Pop. His beaming smile when he gathers with his VFW friends is worth a million. I am so glad we did it. Love Ya Sis. So proud of your growth as a photo journalist.

Pam said...

Debra,
You captured the time at the Memorial Day Service so wonderfully. I know because I was there with tears streaming down my face right next to you. Your eye for taking pictures is amazing. The words that went with your fabulous photographs are touching. We never know what tomorrow may bring so we need to cherish each and every day and celebration. This day belonged to Pop. His beaming smile when he gathers with his VFW friends is worth a million. I am so glad we did it. Love Ya Sis. So proud of your growth as a photo journalist.

Debra Snell said...

@Michael I heard that very sad statistic at the service. They are Hero's indeed Thanks for sharing.
@Paul you are so right we are blessed. Pappa is an amazing man and was very special to my mother.
@Pam (Sis) You are so right about cherishing each moment in life. We are no promised tomorrow, so be glad for today. Glad you were so passionate about him being there for the service. I think my eyes just see as a journalist because I was one for so long. Thanks

A Proud Father said...

I haven't been online much over the past month or so but I am glad to have come upon this post as the first to my eyes. I remember your post from last year and would not have imagined you could have improved on it. Your subject of course is one deserving of great dignity and highest honor. Indeed we are losing our heroes of some of the greatest years in our history, but it is a blessing that they are being captured for posterity. We have all been told stories of the past and words can be moving and exciting, but the camera records that which no word can - emotion. You always find that in your subject and it is what separates your work from the ordinary. My deepest respect for your papa and my appreciation for his service and his losses. No doubt as he stands with the aid of others like him, his mind must recall those who did not return to see such tribute. God them all.

Debra Snell said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Debra Snell said...

@Proud Father. Thanks you so much for your wonderful comments. I really value the reaction and feedback that I received from blog followers. I can't imagine photography without the expectation of my growth.I do agree with all you have shared about my Pappa. I will value these images more than others because it may be the last memorial day he attends. Life is just too difficult now.