Today began my journey to Guatemala with Clean the World. The group I’m traveling with met in Orlando and along the way I decided since it’s Memorial Day, I should stop by the Sarasota National Cemetery. From the first time I’ve held a camera, I wanted to be a photojournalist. My career path led me down another highway yet, I continue to work on the craft. I thought the cemetery honoring those who served in the military would provide some powerful visuals.
It did, but not what I expected. I was expecting to see each bright, white headstone’s patch of perfectly manicured lawn staked with a small, crisp red, white and blue American flag.
Some sections were adorned with the flags but for the most part,if there were flags, flowers or balloons in front of a headstone, the red, white and blue was brought in by a family member or friend.
One of the things holding me back from being a hardcore photojournalist is I’m shy and conservative when it comes to personal boundaries. Today, I saw women sitting in front of headstones bawling. A man who rode up on a Harley Davidson motorcycle wearing a black leather ball cap, black leather vest, blue jeans and weathered brown leather boots. I watched as he wept while walking through the POW section.
If I had the guts, I’d be taking their photos in order to share those beautifully, raw, emotional moments. But, I don’t have the guts to cross that boundary and left them alone to their private, personal moments.
I don’t know much about the Sarasota National Cemetery other than the facilities being built look stunning. Others were curious about the new construction and I overheard a cemetery employee tell a visitor he took a tour of the new area and it’s beautiful.
The most curious thing I spotted today was the area marked “Lost and Found.” After seeing the collection of weathered silk flowers, vases, and a stuffed Easter bunny, I realized these items weren’t lost, but they were left at graves in the respective months indicated on the bins. I also saw a note written on the back of something by a sister to a sibling buried at the cemetery.
I wonder what the qualifications are to be buried at the Sarasota National Cemetery. Someone had told me if you were a WWII or Korean War Vet or killed in the line of duty, you could be buried there. My grandfather served in WWII with the Coast Guard and is buried elsewhere in Sarasota. I wonder if I could get a memorial plaque for him there.
I later heard on the radio that an organization heard some national cemeteries in Florida didn’t have the funds for American flags and they did a quick fundraiser for some of the cemeteries. Let’s hope next year we’ll view a sea of American flags waving at the Sarasota National Cemetery.
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