Don’t Thank a Veteran

(This was originally published on my Facebook page as a “note” on November 9, 2012. I hope that all who read this will share it as far and wide as possible. Not for my glory or my readership numbers, but to help people understand what Veteran’s Day is like for active-duty military members. I left active duty in Nov 2015, but this message still represents my thoughts about Veteran’s Day.)

It happens to a lot of us in uniform. We are pumping gas or grabbing a household necessity in the grocery store. We happen to be in uniform because we are headed to or from work. It usually comes from nowhere and, at least for me, it usually takes a moment to realize the comment is aimed at me.

“Thank you for your service.”

What do I say to that? How should I respond? I never know the answer to this, thus I am usually uncomfortable for a moment and simply say “Thank you” in return. Sometimes that answer seems to welcome further probing like “what ship are you on?” or “where are you stationed?”

I try to be polite to any stranger who approaches me in public regardless of the topic at hand. This situation, though, perplexes me. I am not comfortable responding to “thank you” and “I appreciate your service” or any other acknowledgement of my military service in a public setting.

I do consider my brothers and sisters in arms to be heroes. I just don’t think of myself that way. I wouldn’t dare speak for them, but I am pretty sure they feel the same way. Most of us just see ourselves as regular people doing a job for extraordinary organizations. Nothing we do individually means anything in most cases. We work as a team.

If anyone needs a sincere “Thank you”, it is our families. It is our spouses and children and parents who stay behind and carry the weight of our household responsibilities without our help. They often take on multiple roles and learn new skills just to survive while we are away doing the nation’s business. They take on the burden of the pain and suffering when their hero is lost to the nation’s cause. They are the ones who are forced by circumstances out of their control to wonder all day every day if today will be the day they get the bad news. They are the ones who watch the nightly news with keen interest and hope that some recipe for world peace will be discovered, only to find out that it becomes more out of reach every day.

If anyone has earned a special “day” on the calendar, if anyone has earned a free meal at three dozen national chain restaurants, it is the family members of military personnel. Their sacrifice and dedication deserves all of the obligatory mentions I keep hearing tossed about on television commercials and news shows as Veteran’s Day approaches. I hear endless talking heads reminding me to “make sure I stop a military veteran and thank them for their service”.

Don’t thank me. Show me you appreciate my service by showing me you are dedicated to making America the greatest country on Earth with the way you conduct yourself and the way you help your neighbor. Show me my sacrifice is worth it by becoming an educated voter who knows and understands the issues and by not being someone who just watches an hour of network news every night to see how to vote. Reward my time away from my family by making sure they have a safe and comfortable community to live in. Do not steal their treasure by being a strain on government resources through negligence, laziness or disregard for the difference between right and wrong.

So to all of the people out there who think you need to take a moment to thank me for taking up arms in defense of your liberty, there is someone else who makes it possible for me to do what I do. There is someone else who needs your benevolence and your dedication to keeping America great. This Veteran’s Day, I will be off work. I will be taking time to think about those who came before me and acted as heroes so that when my time to serve came, it might be easier for me than it was for them. It is my job to carry on their tradition and continue their progress. It is my job. I am owed no gratitude for that. In doing that job, I am placing extraordinary strain on my family back home. I am taking something from them that cannot be replaced by a TV commentator calling me a hero. This Veteran’s Day, do not thank me.

If you want to thank someone, thank my wife and my son.

He's gonna know Daddy as a character on a screen.
He’s gonna know Daddy as a character on a screen.

Curious Kids Photo Contest

I see a ton of photos online every day of kids posing for cameras. Although many are really cute, you know, because kids are cute, the ones I really love are photos of kids not even knowing there is a camera around. If you just let a child be a child, you will get wonderful emotions and reactions.

I decided to dig around in the world of amateur/semi-pro photography and see just what sort of photos there might be out there capturing those wonderful emotions and reactions. As a member of Pixels.com, I am able to host contests among other members as a way for all of us to get together and share our work, and learn to get better. I honestly thought going in that I had the best photo, and that the world would agree.

Man, did I ever have something to learn. There are a lot of awesome people out there taking photos, and 60 of them submitted images in my contest.

The rules were simple: “Kids are fearless and curious. This can get them into trouble. Show us your best photo of kids living on the edge.”

Here is the winning image, as voted on by viewers at Pixels.com.

"Can You See It?" - photo by Barbara Dudley
“Can You See It?” – photo by Barbara Dudley (Taken with Nikon D5100 with 55-300mm lens)

Now, you might be saying, “Wait, they aren’t living on the edge!”

I disagree. I think this photo is the perfect example of the spirit of my contest. We have no idea what they are looking at, or why they are curious. We only know the older-looking one seems slightly cautious and the younger-looking one seems ready to tackle it, no matter what it is. This is the way kids tackle all of the things that worry us parents silly.

The photographer, Ms. Barbara Dudley, explained a little more for me via email :

“The photo was taken last fall when I shot the family of these two little hooligans! These were among the best shots and great representation of the energy ( trouble) these two carry with them…
I used my Nikon D5100 and my 55-300mm lens…I did shoot from a distance as they were on a bridge with their little heads poking through…
Their expressions were priceless and really can’t remember what caught their eye as my focus was on the two of them…”

While I wouldn’t exactly call a Nikon D5100 a “budget” camera, it is far less expensive than the equipment full-time professionals use, however Ms. Dudley shows us here that photography is not now, nor has it ever been, about the price of the equipment. It is more about the value of the moment. To see more of her work, you can view her gallery HERE.

There was one other photo in the contest that I feel obligated to mention, mainly because it is the one I voted for and because it did finish in second place, losing by one vote.

Here is the 2nd-place photo, getting an Honorable Mention, and giving me a giggle every time I look at it.

Going Fishing - Photo by Kris Hiemstra
“Going Fishing” – photo by Kris Hiemstra (Canon 3ti with Sigma 18-250mm lens)

Another photo proving that you don’t need a kid staring at a camera to get a great shot. I loved this photo because of the humorous situation, but also because it has great composition, lighting and color. I also appreciated the moment because, as a kid, I was forever trying to get in any fish tank I could get in.

Here is what Ms. Hiemstra had to say about how she captured the image:

“The photo was taken on the Embarcadero in Morro Bay, California. I walk past it every day and, of course, I always have my camera with me. The steam always attracts attention and this curious child was no exception. I couldn’t help but wonder if she was supposed to be somewhere else (school perhaps?) but became completely distracted (you might say immersed).”

If you would like to see more of her work, you can see it HERE. (If you are looking for very colorful photography to decorate a sunroom or other “beachy” space in your home, I highly recommend you look at her work.)

As for the image I submitted, most of my readers have seen it before. But since I technically finished two votes back in a tie for third, I’ll share it again.

Fearless - photo by David Cothran (Nikon D700 with 24-70mm fixed 2.8)
“Fearless” – photo by David Cothran (Nikon D700 with 24-70mm fixed 2.8)

A little Easter shoot we did last Spring, and the photo that inspired me to host the contest. If you would like to see more of my work, all of which is for sale, visit my gallery HERE.

Ringo Goes Pro?

Actually, I’ve been getting paid for photography for more than five years now, and I guess that makes me a professional, but among my Navy photographer peers, I am like a minnow among sharks.

Perhaps that is why I have always been nervous about my prospects to actually get paid for photography outside the military.

Thanks to social media and digital technology, just about anyone with a pulse can be a photographer these days, and competition is everywhere… often at the cost of quality, as most images I see on social media are total garbage. I call them “pictures”, not “photographs”.

There are, however, many quality images being shared online, and now it’s easier than ever for artists to market and maybe sell their images via social media outlets.

And so it is… Ringo has decided to dabble in the world of semi-professional photography. I am offering a selected group of some of my favorite shots at a social-media driven website called Pixels. They are an offshoot of Fine Art America, which has been selling art online successfully for quite a while.

Below you will find a few links to art I am featuring in specific galleries, along with a link to my overall profile. These images are for sale in several printed/framed varieties, as well as for use on greeting cards or cell phone covers. Additionally, my images can be licensed for commercial use. All details can be found on the site.

If photography is a hobby for you, I encourage you to look into using Pixels to share your art with the world. Even if you don’t sell anything, Pixels is a nice social community for artists to learn from each other and enhance their craft.

My page: Click Here

Galleries I sponsor and have work in:
Bridges
Children
Nature