This remains one of my favorite images. Shot during the opening weekend of the World War 2 Memorial, this Vietnam vet haunts me. He was one of the many who lurk around the memorials, men still haunted by that war, by the losses, by the way the country reacted. It’s been a habit of mine for years to tell them thank you. This guy caught my attention. He was wandering around the memorial, lost in thought. I approached him, tapped his shoulder and he turned. I told him thank you. He teared up and hugged me. He ducked his head, replied with a quiet, “thank you”, and walked away, head down. His friend up to me and said, “Thank you. You’re the first person to tell him that.” Then he walked off.
I was deeply moved. A few minutes later I saw him again and grabbed a quick shot. He then vanished into the swirl of people. When I got home, I found an out of focus shot.
I was frustrated. Why couldn’t I have gotten a clean shot. As I stared at my miss, I fell in love with the shot. I don’t know his story. I don’t know of I was truly the first to thank him. I do know this shot represents so many veterans who’ve been forgotten. They move through our lives, quiet, on the edges, barely in out sight. Occasionally they intersect and we get a brief window into the world they live in. Then they move off again.