On June 12, 24-year-old Army. Spc. Brian "Bucky" Anderson was killed while on patrol in Afghanistan. To everyone in Broadway, a close knit community in the Shenandoah valley, he was only known as that name in quotation marks: Bucky. Everyone knew Bucky, the high school wrestling star, or knew someone who did, and almost the entire town surrounded his family to help them through their grief. A candlelight vigil was organized within days of the sad news making its way to the valley, and the bleachers in the gym at Bucky's high school, Broadway High School, were filled with friends, family and mourners to remember Bucky's life during his funeral.
As a photographer, these are the sorts of assignments you know are the most important, the most necessary, but as a human being, you feel the worst covering them, pointing your camera into the face of a mother who just lost her son as she hugs the flag that draped his coffin as if it was her baby. She broke into sobs with every new hug from a member of the community, the only voice in the silence of the park where fireflies and white candles hovered at dusk. Her voice was the only one to be heard as the bagpipes played "Danny Boy" while Bucky's casket was carried past flag-bearing members of the Patriot Guard Riders. Her voice was the only one asking her husband if they could take Bucky home as they sat in the front row of his funeral, and he held her like she held the flag: tightly, tenderly, lovingly.
Some photographers consider it an unsuccessful day if you haven't made your subjects cry, or you haven't cried along with them. As I willed myself to take a few frames during the graveside service, it was difficult to ensure the photos were in focus through the tears, but I knew they were important - to show what this community has lost, to show what Bucky's death has cost his family, to show the human toll of war. I hope the community of Broadway will continue to stand by the Anderson family, and I hope that my paper's coverage of his death will help to memorialize a young man whose life was too short but meant so much to so many.