By Mark W. Danielson
This isn’t my photo. I borrowed it from a Facebook friend. I’m posting it here because of the powerful images it provokes. Better than the best prose, this picture speaks volumes because it captures our hearts. Why is that? Is it because of the eagle, the cemetery, or both? Let’s start with the eagle.
More than a symbol of the United States, the American Bald Eagle is perhaps the most majestic bird in existence. A master of air and fierce hunter, one cannot help being in awe. We normally see this bird soaring or attacking with its talons out. Perhaps this is why it is so heartbreaking to see it perched atop a tombstone in a veterans’ cemetery.
Even without the eagle, this cemetery photo is chilling as we imagine the young faces of those buried in the endless rows. Futures denied and future generations lost because of war. In the background, the mist and low sun forge a solitary setting. Add the perched eagle and eyes start to well.
What makes this photo especially interesting is how the eagle hides the veteran’s religious affiliation. Without realizing it, this bird demonstrated that people of all denominations die in the name of the sword, but in the end, dead is dead – at least in our dimension. No political rhetoric or medal can change that for these veterans, but even death cannot strip them of the honor. This is what these cemeteries are for -- to pay homage and honor their memories.
If I was teaching a writing class, I would ask my students to write a short story about this photo. No doubt some would share tales of their loved ones while others might debate politics. Certainly whatever stories they share would be extremely personal and touching. I would than ask them to write a brief description of this this photo. Some may pronounce it the bite of approaching winter while others may pray for eternal peace for those who died for their country. But since I am not a professor of creative writing, I am opening this up to our blog readers. What, exactly, do you see in this photo, and can you describe it in a sentence or two? The challenge is yours.