Sunday, June 15, 2014

My Father's Son

Last week we laid my father's remains in their final resting place, interring his ashes at Arlington National Cemetery in the vault where my mom has rested since 2001. If you have followed my blog since its inception you probably know that i began these pages shortly after his death in May of 2013. I spent many young and stubborn years in denial of the fact that i am in so many ways just like my father, from my chosen passion for photography to my love of old movies and my wise-ass, sarcastic New York sense of humor. And, of course, i inherited his striking good looks. ;-) No, there is no denying that i am my father's son and the more i have come to know my dad, even after his death, the more proud i am of it.
So i'd like to share with you a bit of that ceremony at Arlington. If you have never witnessed military funeral honors they are really quite impressive. And i say this from the perspective of a live-long pacifist who has protested every war this country has fought since Vietnam. Still one cannot help but be moved by the level of respect and reverence displayed by the military Honor Guard during the service nor suppress the lump formed in the throat when those rifles fire their volley of shots for the fallen soldier.
I did find myself in a bit of a conundrum. How could i be both an active participant and photographically document this personal event at the same time? It was obviously important to me that i capture these moments, but as the son surely i needed to be a part of the proceedings as well. What would my dad do in my place. For those who don't know, my father had spent the last years of his life (while in his 80s!) working as a civilian photographer for the U.S. Army at Ft. Detrick. I'm pretty sure that he had photographed more than one Honor Guard service in that capacity. I'm pretty sure that he would also feel the need to document the event, that if he could find a way he probably would have shot his own funeral. So i decided to play it by ear. I simplified. Single camera, single lens. But i still needed to step out and back from time to time to capture the shot.  I knew no other way to handle it, to process it, and in the end i am my father's son.

©David Sorcher 2014

On arrival we were directed to the main office before proceeding to the grave sites. Families gather here between the flags and are then led to private rooms before the service.

©David Sorcher 2014

On our way to my parents' vault i paused for this iconic view of tombstone alignments. 

©David Sorcher 2014

Ashes are interred in stacked vaults like these. I like the egalitarian approach of Arlington. While i love cemeteries with all forms of grandiose monuments to the dead, every soldier, from private to general, is equal here. 

©David Sorcher 2014

My father's Honor Guard assembles before the service.

©David Sorcher 2014

The Honor Guard carries the flag and my father's remains to the service area. The rifles remained in the field. I must admit that i was a little disappointed that they remained so far from the rest of the service, out of my photographic view. It is a very impactful moment when those guns fire their rounds. The images of that are missing here, but the resonance of those reports remain.

©David Sorcher 2014

The Honor Guard unfold the flag to be held over the remains during the ceremony. 

©David Sorcher 2014

©David Sorcher 2014

A military chaplain speaks during the military part of the service. 

©David Sorcher 2014

The Honor Guard embodies a reverential intensity that needs to be witnesses to truly appreciate. Every action, every movement involved in the unfolding and folding of the flag reveals it. This Staff Sergeant particularly impressed me. I wish i could have had a moment to speak with him afterwards, but these guys quickly disappeared as we moved on to the interring part of the service.  

©David Sorcher 2014

The Honor Guard treat the flag with a fervor that can only be described as religious. 

©David Sorcher 2014

©David Sorcher 2014

The flag is presented to my little sister Annie as the Staff Sgt. speaks to her with great sincerity and solemnity about the service my father gave to his country. 

©David Sorcher 2014

The Staff Sgt. offers a final salute to my father's remains before we move to the vault for interring the ashes. In case you are wondering if i ever found my place as a participant in this service it was at this point that i let my camera rest for a moment and took a part, carrying the ashes from this pavilion to the vault and placing them in their final resting place.  

©David Sorcher 2014

My elder sister Suzanne places a photograph of my mom and dad taken back in the 1950s with messages of love written on the back by the children and grand children. 

©David Sorcher 2014

The chaplain reads the mourners' kaddish at the vault site. I must say here that my father had never been an observant Jew. In fact he never had a bar mitzvah, much to the chagrin of my grandmother, and always identified himself as an atheist in his lifetime (though after my mom's death he did seem to develop some sense of the spiritual). The chaplain didn't know my dad in his lifetime and it did feel just a little odd to me as he spoke of the accomplishments of this man of whom he really had no direct knowledge. As for the kaddish, i am not sure what my dad would think about religious words of God spoken being spoken over his remains. But ultimately funerals are really for the living, not the dead, to comfort those left behind in this world. The dead are already being cared for long before we ever say a word on their behalf. In that light i believe that the rabbi did an excellent job speaking about a man that he never did and now never could know.

©David Sorcher 2014

©David Sorcher 2014

The chaplain adds a scoop of earth to the vault as part of the ceremony.

©David Sorcher 2014

©David Sorcher 2014

The chaplain finishes up the service. The vault plaque will be replaced temporarily until an updated one can be made.  

©David Sorcher 2014

It was my father's wish that there be a bagpiper at his funeral. Some might question why a New York Jew wanted Scottish bagpipes played at this time, but as a lover of the pipes myself i was all for it.  

©David Sorcher 2014

Amazing Grace sounds wonderful haunting on the pipes and seemed a very good choice for the occasion.

©David Sorcher 2014

Just one more image of the piper as he began to walk off in to the distance playing because…well…you know…pipes… :-)

©David Sorcher 2014

As i stated before, this plaque will be replaced with an updated version, but i show this photo to make what i believe is an important point about my dad. If you look at the plaque you will note that it says PFC. All our lives we kids had always believed that our father served in the Army and only achieved the rank of Private First Class. But if you look closely at the attached card you will note his rank as Sergeant. We never knew. Obviously my dad must have known but never said a word, not even when this plaque was engraved with PFC at my mother's death. His life was about service, not bragging rights. He was a soldier, a fireman, a paramedic, a volunteer a photographer, a loving husband and a father…a man of service, not glory…

©David Sorcher 2014

©David Sorcher 2014

My sister Annie clutches the flag in remembrance. Annie spent the most amount of time with our father in his later years and was truly daddy's little girl. I think this flag is in good hands with her.   

©David Sorcher 2014

Larry Sorcher 9/22/25-5/13/13 ©David Sorcher 2013

Larry Sorcher at age 86. I can only hope i age this well. Happy Father's Day dad. You will always be loved, missed and remembered by all those whose lives you have touched. 

  

6 comments:

  1. I agree, as with your mother I was always welcomed by your father as were my parents. Respect to your father and Best wishes to you all.

    Alison

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  2. Thanks Alison. Please pass this link along to you folks.

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  3. That was really moving David.
    Thank you for sharing that .

    Peace.
    Caeli

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  4. Very beautiful and moving. Thank you for your service. Rest in peace Mr. Sorcher. Sincerely, Tabitha

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  5. Very moving tribute to yuor dad. Cam Carver

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  6. Thanks for sharing I love your photos

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