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In Memory of

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20051018 | 08:30 am

In Memory of

Photo by Danny Hammontree

"I want to tell you about my son" he said
Carlos handed me the letter his son wrote him from the naval ship as he left for Iraq. He asked that I read it and told me I could keep the copy. There were a few other people there at the time and they were given their letter copies as well. Carlos had a lot to say and I felt like he really didn't know where to start. He began with the story of finding out Alexander had been killed.

It was August 25th 2004 and Carlos's mother was at his house baking him a cake because it was his birthday. He said he had been watching TV nonstop to see how the war was progressing and was extremely happy because George W. Bush had recently come on the news and said “Mission Accomplished”. After hearing the news of the US victory he was very happy because he believed his son would be home very soon. Mom was in the kitchen baking the cake as a Marine van pulled up to the house. Carlos said his first thoughts were happiness, that this was a surprise birthday reunion with his son since the war was over. Three Marines came to the door and gave Carlos the news that his son had just been killed.

Carlos then ran to his shed grabbing a container of gasoline and a propane tank. He then went to the Marine van, smashed out the window, climbed inside and proceeded to set the van and himself on fire. When the van exploded he was thrown from the vehicle. The Three Marines then extinguished the fire consuming him.

As Carlos told us this story he lifted his pants and shirt exposing scars from his severe burns. At this point we were all in tears or holding back as hard as we could. Most of us were parents and could completely put ourselves in his place. Carlos asked us to please read his sons letter, but this was way too difficult for me in that moment. I put the letter in my camera bag and promised him I would read it.

After listening to Carlos for that part of the story I had to get up and go for a walk. His story was so emotionally painful I was unable to stay and listen more without completely breaking down. My thoughts at that time were what I would do if I lost any of my children. What would I do if a man sent my son off to die for what I believed was not only an unjust war but purely for self profit? I was so sad and so angry I could hardly hold it inside. I walked for about 2 hours before coming back to Camp Casey to finish talking with Carlos.

While sitting in the grass listening to much of the same story again some people would come up and in their own special way tell Carlos that he was a disgrace to his son and to the United States of America. Their jabs would come more as questions without care for retort. Carlos would remain at all times very calm and would answer any question that was asked of him. This is when he said what I believe effected me the most. He said some people need to get answers from the President, some need to rally and protest, some need to support this war because that is how they deal with their pain. He says he just needs to tell his son’s story and share the letter he received from him before finding out he was killed. “We are all in pain” he said “And I do not fault anyone for the way they deal with their pain”.

The Letter

Mom + Dad

Today is Sunday January 19, 2003. I’ve been out at sea for three day now and I’m starting to feel better. The first two days I was completely sick from seasickness and some virus. So far everyday I come outside of the ship and write letters, whale watch (which isn’t that great cause I haven’t seen any but there are plenty of dolphins that swim along side the ship), watch the horizon and sunset etc…
This seems so unreal to me. I’ve never seen water this BLUE before, I’ve never looked 360 degrees around me and seen nothing but water, clouds, the sun, and a fleet of battle ships surrounding me.
Tomorrow is one of my many, many training days on the ship to prepare me for my mission. I will also be training a short time in Kuwait. This is hard for me to comprehend. It seems like my whole life changed in an instant. Yesterday I was in a classroom learning trigonometry and history. I graduated, went to boot camp, went to school, graduated as a grunt, I was sent across the country to train, now I’m being sent across the world to fight. Today I am in a classroom learning about TACTICAL URBAN COMBAT and NUCLEAR, BIOLOGICAL, and CHEMICAL WARFARE, In the middle of the Pacific Ocean, on my way to experience 1st hand what I am learning about.
I am not afraid of dying. I am more afraid of what will happen to all the ones that I love if something happens to me. Soon enough I will be in the desert, outside the city of Baghdad in full combat gear, ready to carry out my mission, wondering how this all happened so fast, wishing I was back home going to school, dating Sheila, taking care of my family.
Although I think this way now I am almost certain that if I didn’t walk this path of a proud warrior, a Marine. Just because I wonder “what if” doesn’t mean I’m not proud, it doesn’t mean I feel like I made the wrong decision, it doesn’t mean I have any regrets. I’m still proud to be fighting for my country, I feel like, if I’m not helping one way, I should still do all that I can to help (OPERATION ENDURING FREEDOM).
I am on the time hack now. I need to send this letter in the next hour for it to get to you by Tuesday or Wednesday. I love you both very much and I wish I could keep writing but I got to go. Love you.

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Comments {15}

Ivy

crying

from: coolest_mommy
date: 20051018 12:43 pm (UTC)
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Wow this hit home...I'm crying a lot now I'm going to try to calm down then respond again.

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(no subject)

from: ex_crissy
date: 20051018 12:56 pm (UTC)
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did he have those parts capitalized in the real letter?

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Danny Hammontree

(no subject)

from: dannyhammontree
date: 20051018 04:08 pm (UTC)
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Yes, I copied everything verbatim...

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uncomfortable insects

(no subject)

from: julesal
date: 20051018 01:53 pm (UTC)
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Can I just tell you that last night I dreamt about being stranded on a boat, and looking outside to see seals and Dolphins swimming around?

Your photographs are stunningly beautiful. I think your true calling is photojournalism.

This post is also beautiful, in that very sad way...but necessary. Thank you for that.

Unrelated, have you heard about the assassination of Filiberto Ojeda Rios in Puerto Rico? I think it's something you may be interested to read about. A snippet from the linked article:
The fatal September 23 shooting of Puerto Rican nationalist leader Filiberto Ojeda Rios represents an act of state terror and cold-blooded murder by the US government. It is one more proof that in the name of a “global war on terrorism,” Washington has arrogated to itself the right to conduct political assassinations and act as judge, jury and executioner against opponents of US policies and interests.

Aged 72, Ojeda Rios was the leader of the Boricua Popular Army, also known as the Macheteros, a group that advocated independence for Puerto Rico. He was wanted on charges that he had participated in the planning of a 1983 Wells Fargo armored car robbery in Hartford, Connecticut, in which $7.1 million was taken. A fugitive for 15 years since fleeing house arrest in 1990, he was sentenced in absentia to 55 years in jail.

Ojeda Rios was alone with his wife in their home in the rural southwestern Puerto Rican municipality of Hormigueros, near the city of Mayagüez, when scores of FBI agents stormed his property, unleashing a rain of bullets. According to reports, at least 100 armed agents were involved, backed by helicopters and a squad of military sharpshooters brought to the island from Virginia.

The nationalist leader was struck by a single bullet from a sharpshooter’s high-powered rifle. While he suffered no wound to any vital organ, he was left to bleed to death on the floor of his home as FBI agents refused to allow Puerto Rican authorities and emergency medical teams anywhere near the house, maintaining a militarized perimeter for 24 hours.

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michaela says

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from: fcuk__it
date: 20051018 04:57 pm (UTC)
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i don't even have the words to explain how heartbreaking & touching that is.

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Marianne

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from: nemesis2207
date: 20051018 05:18 pm (UTC)
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Very sad. :-( I admire this man a lot for the way he accepts others reactions.

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CAUTION-FREE SINCE '83

(no subject)

from: dirtdolldeluxe
date: 20051018 07:13 pm (UTC)
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how dare anyone criticize the man for wanting answers. really. shame on all those people.

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Huggscancer

(no subject)

from: huggscancer
date: 20051019 06:16 am (UTC)
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is this about the boy that you met when you were at the thing in dc the other week?

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Danny Hammontree

(no subject)

from: dannyhammontree
date: 20051019 06:18 am (UTC)
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about a man... but i think your thinking of the same story :)

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Huggscancer

(no subject)

from: huggscancer
date: 20051022 07:59 am (UTC)
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yeah
i think i am too
:):(

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kittykreature

(no subject)

from: kittykreature
date: 20051019 06:21 am (UTC)
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I am so glad you left this as the last one , Danny - it is a wonderful and poignant finish to this brilliant display , of not only your talent , but also the importance of this event

Now I just need to find my tissues

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Danny Hammontree

(no subject)

from: dannyhammontree
date: 20051019 06:39 am (UTC)
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Thank you so much :) This is not the last one because I felt it should be followed up by one full of happiness and hope. Dogman brought us into this series and I’m gonna let him take us out with a beautiful photo I took of him right before I left DC ;)

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Something Like That

(no subject)

from: fatcagney
date: 20060122 05:37 pm (UTC)
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There is a copy of my signifigant other in his dress blues on my computer. It saddens me to see these things.

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You are a good person

from: anonymous
date: 20070224 10:43 am (UTC)
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Well, i know you from deviantart. Still a great "job" from you.
You're an amazaing person, you don't only take pictures, you also want to know the story behind them.
You listened this man, it was hard, but you did it. i'm going to leave in a new appartment, and i said that i would put some of your pics in. This pics would be in. This story also.
http://bienpasbien.deviantart.com

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Danny Hammontree

Re: You are a good person

from: dannyhammontree
date: 20070224 03:02 pm (UTC)
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Thank you so much :)

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