Memorial Day Photo Story

By Roger (30 May 2016)

It's Memorial Day, and, as retired military officers, Mark and I always honor this day. Today is the day we remember service members who died while serving the United States. We have been lucky enough to have all our immediate military family members return safely from their deployments, but I have known several families who were not so fortunate. Here's how I came to create this Memorial Day photo.

COL William B. Nolde

This is U.S. Army Colonel William Benedict Nolde, the last official combat casualty of the Vietnam War. He also served in the Korean War. He was killed just 11 hours before the Paris Peace Accords brought an end to all hostilities. He was survived by his wife, Joyce, and five children.

I met the youngest, Bart, in 1983, while we were lieutenants, attending an Army course, at Ft. Huachuca, Arizona. I photographed Bart and his wife, Shari, and he told me about his father. He talked about the experiences he went through immediately after his father's death. I believe the family was honored at the White House. COL Nolde is buried in Arlington National Cemetery, in Section 3.

I asked him to let me borrow his father's photograph, and I used a macro lens to make a copy – on film. Remember, this is 1983. I was using film and had no access to a scanner. I had never even seen a scanner; they were rare and very expensive tools then. It shows in the poor quality of the portrait.

I made the Vietnam Memorial photo that same year and spent many hours with a professional printer to create the composite. Photoshop didn't exist yet. We made prints of the Memorial, in both color and black and white. We made a photo composite of the black and white portrait; a photo of the Memorial, in black and white; and the color of the flag. (In 1983, selective color photos were very rare and not yet considered bad taste.) You'll notice COL Nolde's name, just above the brim of his hat, has been lightened a bit, to draw the viewer's eye.

I made a couple of prints for Bart and his mother. I wish I had the chance to recreate this composite with today's tools. It would be higher quality and much easier.

I lost touch with Bart when we graduated from the class. I used Google to remember the actual dates and facts about COL Nolde. While I was doing the search, I saw an article that said two of his grandsons were becoming Army officers. The proud tradition continues.

SGT Timothy Sayne

I would also like to remember Army Sergeant Timothy Sayne. He died in Afghanistan, on 18 September 2011. He was a soldier who served with my son, on a previous deployment to Iraq. Mark and I photographed the funeral for his family, at Arlington, in Section 60. His story was told in our blog here.

So, don't forget the meaning of today. It's nice to say things to those you know or meet who are serving now or who served in the past, but Memorial Day is not about them – it's for those who died serving us.