3.19.2011

Final Salute

"War is hell, but that's not the half of it, because war is also mystery and terror and adventure and courage and discovery and holiness and pity and despair and longing and love. War is nasty; war is fun. War is thrilling; war is drudgery. War makes you a man; war makes you dead." 
 --Tim O'Brien

So a Milie friend of mine had this really heart-breaking photo posted on Facebook and I just had to do some research on it. After finding out all about it, I had to share it.


The night before the burial of her husband's body, Katherine Cathey refused to leave the casket, asking to sleep next to his body for the last time. The Marines made a bed for her, tucking in the sheets below the flag. Before she fell asleep, she opened her laptop computer and played songs that reminded her of "Cat," and one of the Marines asked if she wanted them to continue standing watch as she slept. "I think it would be kind of nice if you kept doing it," she said. "I think that's what he would have wanted."

There is an incredible gallery that is a collaboration of photo journalism that was printed back in 2005 and acknowledged and featured in 2006 on Digital Journalist. It's called Final Salute and all of the photos and their back-stories, as well as the piece written all about the photographer Todd Heisler and the reporter he worked with (Jim Sheeler) can be found HERE. I strongly suggest and encourage EVERYONE to go and read these stories and see these photos.

War is real. 

More real than most people recognize it to be. So please, never forget, never push it aside, and never, ever doubt the sacrifices that men and women are making every single day, for YOU.


When 2nd Lt. James Cathey's body arrived at the Reno Airport, Marines climbed into the cargo hold of the plane and draped the flag over his casket as passengers watched the family gather on the tarmac. During the arrival of another Marine's casket last year at Denver International Airport, Major Steve Beck described the scene as one of the most powerful in the process: "See the people in the windows? They'll sit right there in the plane, watching those Marines. You gotta wonder what's going through their minds, knowing that they're on the plane that brought him home," he said. "They're going to remember being on that plane for the rest of their lives. They're going to remember bringing that Marine home. And they should."


On the tarmac at the Reno Airport, 23-year-old Katherine Cathey waits in a limousine next to an empty hearse, preparing to watch the arrival of her husband's casket. Five days earlier, she learned of her husband's death in Iraq. Two days later, she learned that her baby would be a boy.

19 comments:

Jenifer said...

What AMAZING stories. Thank you for sharing these. They give me the chills. I have been so lucky each time my husband has deployed. he has come home. So many have not been so lucky.

Mrs. Gambizzle said...

I saw this passed around a couple months ago and it breaks my heart. I can't imagine how it would tear you in two to have to mourn the death of your husband, while trying to celebrate the birth of your child. :(

McDancer said...

I used this collaboration in one of my final projects in college. Heartbreaking in it's reality, I think it's so important to capture moments like these so that we never forget the sacrifices some make.

Sailor's Wife said...

I am crying :( I lived in the Reno area when this happened, and I had no idea :( This is amazing and incredibly sad.

Sailor's Wife said...

I am crying :( I lived in the Reno area when this happened, and I don't remember it :(

Team Mama said...

Heartbreaking. Praying so hard that this won't be us. Praying for the families of those who have made that ultimate sacrifice. And crying- which I seem to do a lot over stories like this. <3

Beka said...

yeah, my sister read that book, and i saw some of it...

that first picture just about kills me.
every time i look at it.

Erin said...

I had to stop looking at those pictures. There is so much emotion and tragedy portrayed in them. It makes me angry to think that so many people have to relive what is in those pictures. I pray for that family, because I can't even begin to imagine the hell that they are going and went through. Thank you for sharing this. It truly is an eye opener.

Charity said...

I couldn't stop crying. People just don't grasp what it means to be a war, they never really think about it since it doesn't affect their everyday lives...

chambanachik said...

Wow. Those are the kind of things people don't want to hear about or see-not even me- but they need to be heard and seen because they're real. Heart-wrenching.

AF wifey said...

Thank you for sharing this. Wow! That was very hard to get through... I bawled the whole time I was looking through the pictures. I have actually been a passenger on one of the plane rides a fallen soldier came home on. It was such a surreal moment and cried most of the flight! But it is definitely something I will never forget!

Krystal said...

This story always gives me chills. It's absolutely heartbreaking but definitely shows the love these two have.

~Kristen~ said...

Thank you for sharing these stories. I am thankful for when my husband is not downrange and is sleeping by my side at night, but it scares me like hell when he leaves. It is good to be reminded of those that made the ultimate sacrifice. Makes me hold my Airman a little tighter each day that he is home.

The (Almost) Volheims said...

That story gave me chills all over my body. Thanks for sharing.. we all need to remember the sacrifices so many brave people make, both overseas and here at home. My heart breaks for them.

Erin said...

Thank you for sharing this! Of course, I cried. These pictures represent the fear I had in the back of my mind every day for a year... And those fears will return shortly, when my husband deploys again.
I appreciate when people share things like this. So many of my civilian friends do not seem to understand how very real war is, nor how very real and how very closely milspouses live to this reality.
They do not all come home. And we need to remember those who don't. We need to honor them. And we need to support their families.

Angie said...

These stories are amazing and chilling. And of course made me cry. Thank you for sharing! I hope you don't mind if I share these?

Maranda said...

Thanks for sharing. We should never forget...

AF Recruiters Wife said...

I'm not sure if you've watched "Taking Chance", its got Kevin Bacon in it. It was released by MTV films, and didn't get much publicity, but FIND IT! We watched it, and even my husband cried (and will admit to others he did!) on this movie. It follows a senior officer escorting a soilder home for his funeral. It shows the care and respect that goes into every part of the travel, and the reaction to those that witness it (like the picture of everyone looking out the plane window). So worth it, even if you had to buy it to get it. We own it.

Bethany said...

I've seen that first picture before, and it makes me cry everytime. War is so real, and people should HAVE to see these photos. Our military is "out of sight, out of mind" to far too many.