Christmas Honors

Christmas Honors

In 2009, the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce started a program to honor the veterans buried in the Fort Smith National Cemetery.  Inspired by Arlington National Cemetery and “Wreaths Across America,” the goal was to lay a Christmas wreath upon each grave in the cemetery.  It has been a huge success.  The community has joined together and each year, over 1,000 volunteers have assembled the wreaths in a remarkably short period of time, then the veterans’ families, scout troops, veterans groups, and Jr ROTC units have placed the wreaths on the graves.

Most of the photos shown here are from 2011, and one from 2009.

Wreaths by the road

After being assembled, the wreaths are placed in groups along the cemetery road, waiting to be placed on the graves. Family members are the first to place the wreaths, and everyone allows them time alone with their departed loved ones.

Wreaths were covered with frost

That morning in December 2011, was very cold, and the wreaths and red ribbons were covered with frost

An area of Unknown Soldiers' graves

In an area of Unknown US Soldiers’ graves, local Jr ROTC troops place the wreaths

Jr ROTC trooper salutes the grave of an unknown

After placing the wreath on the grave of an Unknown US Soldier, the young cadet salutes the grave headstone, to honor the fallen

Snow on the Wreaths

In 2009 – the first year for Christmas Honors – we received a snowfall on Christmas Day.
Understand this… it never snows on Christmas Day in Fort Smith, Arkansas. 🙂
This is only one of probably at least a hundred thousand photos taken before the snow melted…

These are only a few photos, and others have taken more and better.  But, this is a story about a community that came together and worked together to honor our fallen brothers and sisters.  I think it’s a good thing they’ve done…

Fort Smith Park Autumn

After record breaking heat in the summer of 2011, many of us, including me, did not expect much in the way of “color” in the fall.  However, we were pleasantly surprised and had a very colorful fall – one of my favorite seasons.

Autumn in Arkansas and Oklahoma is brief, and each year brings a different look.  Occasionally, as in 2009, we’ve had an unusually wet fall, giving us water falls, and flowing streams to complement the color.  But, more often, it’s a relatively dry season.  It’s a time of change, and a photographer is challenged to be at the right place at the right time to make an image to represent the season.

On this morning, I was driving to work, but had left home early enough to stop if I saw the right scene, in pleasant light.  Here’s one image I stopped to make.  Initially, I pointed my camera toward the just-risen sun, but that wasn’t the image I wanted.  So, I turned around, and saw the clouds, the sky, the yellow leaves, and the tree line.

What you see here, was shot as a RAW file, cropped slightly to rid the image of a light pole on the right, and some pavement on the left.  Using Corel After Shot Pro, and Corel Paint Shop Pro X4, I’ve adjusted color balance, levels, and sharpness.  Camera was the Sony Alpha 700, with a Tamron 17-50 f/2.8 lens.  Exposure was 1/250 sec. at f/5.6, ISO 200.

Fort Smith Park is on Wheeler Avenue, just west of Midland Boulevard in Fort Smith, and includes numerous picnic tables, a boat ramp to the Arkansas River, and is visited by a large number of area residents throughout the year.  It’s an old park, with old trees; a park I often visit for photographs, and I’m seldom disappointed…

Fort Smith Park Autumn

November 2011