When I first started this new column a couple months ago I wanted to bring to light people who make a difference. I wanted to feature those people who either have changed or are changing the lives of those around them. I wasn't thinking ahead of a time when we would welcome our Carbon and Emery county soldiers home from their duty in Iraq.
As I stood behind the camera Saturday photographing the soldiers and their families and friends during the parades in Helper and Price I realized this group of men not only have made a big difference but they have changed the lives of many people. It was an incredible day. I watched people's faces. I saw the smiles, the tears and the pride in the eyes. The streets were lined with thousands of people waving flags, holding posters and carrying yellow balloons. My heart was touched. As Mayor Joe Piccolo said in his speech at the end of the parade route, "this moment will be etched in my soul forever."
For me patriotism has run high for a long time, but it seems as though something changed when terrorists struck that bright September morning. They unintentionally opened a mother lode of patriotic fervor that welled up and swelled the American heart and mind.
There have been a few moments like Saturday when my emotions took over and I found myself tearing up. For me it all started back in 1986 when I became an American citizen. I remember going through the court hearings and testing process and then in a ceremony I held my first American flag and as they played the Star Spangled banner to the newest group of 32 American citizens I stood with pride, tears running down my face.
That same feeling struck again the morning of 9-11. The evening following the attacks, while living in Arizona, I gathered with a couple dozen people to assemble flags, which would line the streets the next morning. I remember three elderly women talking about how they had joined together to sew flags as young women after the attack on Pearl Harbor. As they shared I couldn't help think that this coming together is what makes America so great. It's what we do and who we are.
As a photographer I get the opportunity to get up close and almost see life through the eye of the camera. Saturday was so incredible as I watched the soldiers hold their loved ones tight. I felt as though I was part of the family as I snapped the photos of the hugs, the smiles and the love.
If any group of men and women held the hearts of our county it was those soldiers from the 1457th and the many others who are serving or have served in the wars.
The parades Saturday were really our time of coming together, honoring these hometown heroes who served well. And the speakers reminded the large crowds that many of our men still serve in other units and divisions of the war, and even some of the men from 1457th will not arrive home until later this month as they return with the equipment.
The people who witnessed Saturday's homecoming parade will long remember the feelings that touched their hearts when they saw the soldiers that fought for our freedoms marching down the street and into their hearts.