As our nation conducts 2007 Memorial Day observances, it is appropriate to note that a Lawrence-born media celebrity has played a key role in producing one of the most moving tributes ever paid to those who have fallen in service to America. While it might first appear this is too specific a venture, it reaches far beyond particular times and spaces and has become one of the finest efforts one can find to honor those who have made that final, full sacrifice.
"Where Valor Rests" is a book that depicts in brilliant photographs the great care and concern provided daily, each season of the year, by the service members and civilians who work at Arlington National Cemetery in our nation's capital. Yet the publication, accompanied by video disks, goes light years beyond that and winds up as a tribute to the dead of all our conflicts, including the 9/11 tragedies.
All this was produced in conjunction with the Arlington National Cemetery Commemorative Project Inc., with Rich Clarkson and Associates of Denver, the National Geographic Society and Arlington National Cemetery. Clarkson, now 73, was born and raised in Lawrence, went to local schools and graduated from Kansas University. He served in the U.S. Air Force and started his newspaper photography career at the Journal-World. He has become internationally famous for his work and recently received the William Allen White Foundation's top award for his countless achievements.
During his visit to Lawrence to receive his latest honor, Clarkson showed the White Foundation audience "Where Valor Rests." There was stunned silence, a tone of reverence and many tears at its conclusion. It is that powerful.
All families of service members killed in combat since Sept. 11, 2001, and buried at Arlington are receiving commemorative copies of the book, and every family that has someone added to the rolls of those who die in Iraq and the Middle East will be presented the publication and DVD. Copies are on sale and a share of the proceeds will go to the Arlington National Cemetery Commemorative Project for future updates and reprints.
Said Dave Burnett, one of the photographers whose work is in the book: "There's a lot of symbolism in what's here (Arlington) that you're always aware of and trying to incorporate it into your pictures. "There's something here that you know is going to outlast all of us. There's a permanence and strength to it."
In addressing families whose members have been buried in Arlington in recent times, Air Force Maj. Gen. Carl H. McNair, explained: "Many people passionately labored to develop a befitting gift to fill an astronomical void left by the untimely departure of the irreplaceable men and women known simply by most as mom or dad, or my brother or sister, or my husband or wife, my son or my daughter. : This gift had to convey our nation's admiration while acknowledging the enormous pain and loss the ultimate sacrifices bring to those left behind."
Countless observances throughout the country will focus this Memorial Day weekend on specific families and acquaintances of those who have been lost, and all will be appropriate. Yet there is a commanding presence and a permanence about Arlington that seems to lay a comforting cloak of tribute over all such events. The goal, in Arlington or anywhere else there are Memorial Day occasions, is to assist in healing, by bringing the spirit and fond memories of brave loved ones "resting here in the serenity of Arlington, a little closer to home."
Lawrence's talented Rich Clarkson and those who worked with him in producing "Where Valor Rests" have given the nation something ultra-special this year.