Friday, May 14, 2010

Honoring the honorable

The first few days of May 2010, I was involved in coordinating a photo shoot for Inland Northwest Honor Flight ( at Spokane International Airport (GEG). Spokane photographers Leland Hoffman, Josh Burdick, Palmer Halvorson, and Greg Hustad joined in the effort to document the Honor Flight effort for WWII Veterans. Without exception, each of the photographers who participated in this great project loved every minute we could spend documenting the departure and arrival ceremonies of 37 WWII Veterans on Honor Flight. We have already added two more very good photographers to that list, and they will shoot for their first Honor Flight in June.

This program is exceptional, and the goal of the project is superb. Getting US military Veterans who served in WWII back to see the WWII Memorial and other military memorials built to honor them, before they die.

How is it possible for a small group of Spokane photographers to contribute, in some way, to these WWII veterans? Our thoughts are to document each minute of the time the Veterans spend over the three days they spend as honored guests of Honor Flight. Following the photography efforts, each photographer chooses photographs that they have taken, to become part of a video/slide record of the Honor Flight experience. For our first effort earlier this month, we presented a DVD program to Honor Flight organizers for each veteran, and their families. The DVD video creation lasted 27:30 (278 slides), and began as the Veterans arrived at GEG on their first day, and finished upon the Veterans departure from the airport after they arrived back home on their third day. The onsite documentation in Washington DC was done by Mike McNab, who also happens to be one of the Honor Flight organizers.

As family members, sponsors and Veterans all begin to see the photos on the video; the tears are going to be plentiful yet memorable. The Spokane photographers began to see these tears as the Veterans began to arrive at the airport with their families. After their flight home to Spokane, the Veterans were greeted (totally shocked) by literally hundreds of local people, hundreds of flags (large and small), and a local band playing in their honor. All of this was happening inside the confines of Spokane International Airport, at 9PM for this particular Honor Flight.

Just photographing this event for the Honor Flight Veterans consisted of quite a few photographic challenges. The lighting levels at the airport, movement of Veterans constantly, dealing with airport security requirements (TSA), cabin crew needs on-board the SWA aircraft and many more such issues were handled by the photographers. Learning the entire Honor Flight process, and having photographers in the right places at the right time, made for some great photographs. Getting through security after being cleared by Southwest Airlines managers and TSA took time away from photography. Yet, as we learned the ropes of the airport process with all of our equipment, Honor Flight went without any major hitches. Each of the Spokane photographers feels that this Honor Flight event is “addictive.” Once you are around these WWII Veterans and their families, the total enjoyment of what we are doing for the veterans is almost instantaneous. The photographers collectively feel that participating in Honor Flight was the most fun they have ever had with a camera. The fact that this is a technically challenging photographic community service project make it even more fun than originally anticipated.

Spokane photographers who wish to participate in the Honor Flight project (future flights), should send their names and email addresses to me. Feel free to go to the Inland Northwest Honor Flight website, for details on how the Honor Flight process works. If you wish to not participate, but there is a WWII Veteran in your family (or a friend), consider signing them up with the forms provided by Honor Flight. I have schedules for June and July, and they are preparing for a new Honor Flight during each month through the end of the year.

If you jump on this community service project, it will be something you will never forget. I'm not going to give you all those details, and spoil it for you. Within 5 minutes of shooting at Spokane International Airport, you'll know exactly what I mean.

John D. Moore, CPP
Community Outreach Chairman
Spokane Camera Club

Spokane Night Scenes