Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Final Salute - A Story Of UnFinished Lives

He is the troop nobody wants to see, carrying a message that no military family ever wants to hear. It begins with a knock at the door. “The curtains pull away. They come to the door. And they know. They always know,” said Lt. Colonel Steve Beck.

Lt. Colonel Steve Beck knows grief and will carry its images in his heart forever. He is a Marine causality assistants calls officer. It's his job to notify the families of fallen soldiers that their loved one is dead. But it's more than that. This unassuming man willingly becomes the object of their anger and eventually their source of strength.

These moving photos are from the photo essay and story Final Salute that ran in the Rocky Mountain News on November 11, 2005. Reporter, Jim Sheeler and photographer, Todd Heisler shadowed Lt. Colonel Beck for one year before writing the piece for the Rocky Mountain News. Later the essay was turned into a book published by Penguin Press.

Heisler won Pulitzer prizes for his photos of Lt. Colonel Beck holding Katherine Cathey, the pregnant wife of a fallen solider and of the arrival of Cathey's remains at the airport.

This is a very emotional story. I heard it on NPR on Memorial Day. I cried so hard I had to turn the station. Even researching the material for this article was painful. If this is what I experienced just hearing their stories, I can only imagine how the grieving families feel.

Final Salute is a very important book. Everyone should read it or at least read the full essay and watch the slide show. As Americans, we should be fully aware of the consequences of war before supporting our government in any such action.

Lt. Colonel Beck is a hero and a saint on Earth. When asked how he felt about his job he said it is an honor above all others. In my book, Lt. Colonel Beck and all those like him are men above all others. I honor him during this week of remembrance.


Moooo! said...

Yeah, I used to work for the airlines, and would get a lump in my throat unloading military caskets and seeing them saluted while loaded into the hearse. Oddly enough, now I'm now in Iraq working with these brave people.

Lisa McGlaun said...

Wow..that must have been tough. By the way I love your site. It's really funny. Come home soon and safe.