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Sunday, March 23, 2008

Well Done My Good and Faithful Servant


I never met Dustin Jackson. I got to know him through the loving stories & memories his family shared about him yesterday. He was kind, pure of heart, astutely expressive (even when he was just 7), and always thoughtful of others above himself. Dustin, 21 and married 6 months ago to his wife Michelle, gave the ultimate sacrifice of himself in Iraq on March 12 in protecting all that we hold sacred in this country.

When I was first contacted late Thursday night by a friend of the family about photographing this service for the family (thank you, Jen, for giving Mandy my name), I was a little apprehensive because 1) I had a viewing and ordering session already scheduled for Saturday morning, and 2) I had never documented a full military funeral service (or any service for that matter), so I didn't know if I was the right person to capture these precious moments. But I thought about what this family and Dustin's wife must be going through, and the devastating loss they've already endured, and it was clear that this was the least someone could do for them. So I called Casey & Samantha and they were instantly supportive of rescheduling their appointment, and everything fell into place.

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It was truly an amazing scene. The memorial and grave-side service were so heart-breaking, and at the same time so beautiful. You can't walk away from an experience like that and not be deeply impacted in how the military has such a profound sense of honor, duty and respect for their fallen service men and women.

And I was taken back by the number of people and especially Patriot Guard Riders that came out to show their respect for Dustin and stand for him since he stood for them - and all of us - by giving his life. American flags lined the streets outside the church and the pavilion in the Dallas-Fort Worth National Cemetery where the grave-side service took place. The sound of bagpipes was eerily serene, the 21 gun salute followed by the Honor Guard playing Taps on the bugle was moving, and the folding of the flag that draped the coffin and presenting it Dustin's wife, mom and dad was one of the most emotional things I've ever witnessed. A fitting memorial for an outstanding young man.

Rest peacefully, Dustin. None of us can thank you enough for your service.

Out of respect for the family, I am creating a memorial slideshow for them but will only post it here if/when they're comfortable with me doing that. Either way, thanks for respecting their wishes.

9 comments:

Sugar Photography said...

Beautiful. I knew you were the perfect person for this...When Mandy emailed you were the first photographer that I thought of, and I was thrilled to hear that you were able to do it.

Really, just...beautiful.

Jen

MandyM said...

Matt, it was a pleasure to meet you and watch you work so respectfully and with heart felt emotion on Saturday. It was a day I will never forget either. Thank you so much for immediately stepping up and giving a priceless gift to this grieving family.

Mandy

Snapshot said...

"There is no greater love than laying your life down for a friend." In this case friends. All of us owe this family, our friends, a huge debt of gratitude. God bless this family. And God bless you Matt for stepping up to the challenge when called. Not just anyone would have done so.

Schrode said...

Bro - your recent post brought tears to my eyes unlike any other I have read. How easy is it for all of us to go through our day to day and forget about those men and women who are protecting us. What a willing and loving sacrifice Dustin has made for his family, our families, and our beloved country.

I could not help but see, also, the appropriateness of your posting on our Easter Sunday when Christ also made a sacrifice for each one of us. May Christ welcome him into paradise with open arms.

My thoughts and prayers go out to Dustin's family. I thank them for their sacrifice for my and my family's safety here in this great nation that God has so richly blessed.

- Schrode
Psalm 23

kelly said...

Matt, how wonderful of you to honor this family by documenting this day for them. Rest in peace, Dustin.

paula barber said...

Matt, this is the most touching thing that I have read in a long time. What a blessing for the family to have such a serene rememberance. The family is in my prayers. . .and my utmost gratitude goes up to Dustin.

Paula

Jana said...

God bless you for being willing to be there for this family. My father in law was recently killed in a car accident and part of me really wanted to photograph the service although none of the family members mentioned anything about someone doing this. In retrospect I wish I'd spoken up and said something to them but I'd just never seen it as tastefully done before as you did it, Matt. Well done.

Anonymous said...

Matt,

Words are inadequate in thanking you for what you've done for our family. You are incredibly gifted. I am touched by the respectful and poignant way that you captured our farewell to Dustin.

Those who knew Dustin know that our country has lost a very special young man who might have been instrumental in shedding light on the value of diplomacy in solving conflict. He was a gentle soul and ,as his mother, I am grateful that he did not face a time during his service in Iraq in which he had to fire a shot at another human being. Our thoughts and prayers remain with all who still struggle to protect each other in this terrible war and our hopes are that they will all come home safely and soon.

As written in our family statement, we want Dustin to be remembered as an incredibly caring and giving person with a gift for finding the good in everyone he met. He never stood in judgement of others and was compelled throughout his life to help everyone in need. He was especially sensitive to plight of the homeless, and reached out to help them.

Memorials may be made to the Arlington Life Shelter, www.arlingtonlifeshelter.org.

Thank-you again, Matt, for such a moving tribute to Dustin.

Sincerely,

Ina Jackson

Melissa said...

What a wonderful gift you gave to this family. God bless this family and my heart goes out to them in this time of sorrow.