Monday, April 26, 2010

The Final Homecoming

This is one of my fall time favorite shots and a great story behind it.
After my departure from the Navy in 1983, I worked as a staff photojournalist for the Florida Times Union in Jacksonville, Florida. In 1983 I was assigned the difficult assignment of providing coverage of the final homecoming of a U.S. Marine that was one of 241 killed in the barracks bombing attack by terrorists in Beirut, Lebanon. The editors wanted to show just how a major world-wide event affected the small town of Yulie, about 20 miles outside of Jacksonville. Marine Corporal John Blocker never saw the homecoming his parents and peers gave him when he came back to Jacksonville on November 8, 1983. He came home in a casket. The readers of the Florida Times-Union saw the weeping mother. They saw the father comforting his wife while he stared in disbelief at the casket being rolled across the tarmac, and they saw a Marine officer, sharply saluting a comrade who had died. In the one image, I had accurately portrayed the actual cost to that small town without actually showing an image of the fallen soldier. I am very proud of that. The image was nominated for the 1983 Pulitzer Prize in Spot News photography. I’m proud of that, too.