Earlier in August 2014, I made it a point to visit the Fort Smith National Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. I had never been to a National Cemetery honoring our veterans who served our country ensuring and protecting our freedom. It was a humbling experience. Seeing the mass rows of white headstones lined up one after another, after another made me realize on many levels these men served our country from different military branches and each one deserves our thanks and gratitude. A haunting aspect capturing my eye was the extraordinary number of Unknown Soldiers who were remembered, but remain forever nameless.
The cemetery was peaceful and no one except for my friend, Mary Helen and I were visiting that day. The clouds had just started to break and the humidity normally blanketing Arkansas on a summer day was absent. She had never been to a National Cemetery either. As we drove around the cemetery, I did take photos along the solemn journey. On the drive, Mary Helen noticed a distant marker and remarked on the brand new red roses catching the sun’s rays left at a veteran’s grave. The anniversary of his death had been a year on that exact day. We remarked that his wife, girlfriend or a child left a dozen roses as their symbol of love and mark of remembrance.
In my travels to visit cemeteries for their history, as well as photographic opportunities certain animals are always present: mourning doves, cottontail rabbits, jackrabbits, robins, the occasional bullsnake and on this day squirrels were unmistakably noticeable. This little guy or girl sat so patiently for me to capture its image. I created the photograph with a dreamlike state of my remembrance of that day. Now, as I look upon this one photograph I will always pause to say silently say thank you to the veterans for without them and their service and sacrifices our nation would not be free.
Photographs – © Christena Stephens Photography