Tell it to the Marines

In my "former" life I spent a lot of time with members of the military, from being part of the first embedded combat pool during the invasion of Panama to the two months I spent in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait during the Gulf War. I've flown cross-country with a squadron of stealth fighters (I was in a KC 135 tanker) and hung out of helicopters as they chased camels across the barren desert. Needless to say, I have great respect for these men and women. In fact, this year's Photo Marathon will benefit two families who lost husbands and fathers in the current war in Iraq.

It's always great fun photographing military weddings and last Saturday didn't disappoint. Christine Vanderbeek, who can't speak more than seven words without laughing about something, married Nick Weber, who hails from the largest family I've ever run across, in a wonderfully joyous ceremony at the chapel on Fort Belvoir. (Let's cut to the chase: Nick has 15 brothers and sisters, the youngest of whom are so adorable and funny that I found it hard not to photograph them.)

As always, I could tell we were in for a fun day by the relaxed atmosphere at the Vanderbeek family home in Fairfax Station. Christine had her hair done with her dog at her side. Her dad was watching Clint Eastwood get one of the all-time great movie shaves in "High Plains Drifter." No chaos, no stress, only laughter. And as we walked outside to leave for the church, I looked around for the requisite limo or town car. Par for the course, Christine instead hopped into her dad's Jeep Wrangler and off they went, laughing down the drive.

Nick's family is much the same. On Friday night before the wedding, I met them all over at the Marine Barracks at 8th and I in Washington, the oldest post in the Corps, to watch Nick march in the evening parade. Established in 1801, the barracks has been the home of every commandant of the Marine Corps. In fact, the commandant's home was mysteriously spared by the British during the war of 1812, despite the fact that much of Washington burned around it.

Now, much of the evening parade at the post is performed long after sunset. And even though there are spotlights, trying to pick one Marine from a few hundred other Marines in the dark is not exactly a piece of cake. Luckily I had Nick's siblings to help out.

"Third from the left, back row!"whispered little Theresa.

"No, the other back row!"said little Tony.

"Definitely last guy, last row, by the bushes," came a third response.

Easy.

(And believe it or not, I nailed the picture as he marched by. I actually surprised even myself.)

I always thought I came from a large family, having four siblings. But 16? Wow. And Nick told me he couldn't ever remember a single fight between any of them. (OK, I just made that last sentence up.)

******

Okay, gang, I'm going to wrap this up. I've got a couple of more make-up posts to work on. As I said earlier, the new site is up and running, albeit a tad slowly--we hope to iron that out shortly--and there's a lot of cool stuff to look at there. I also just realized that we never had a proper coming out party for our new logo, which we've been using for the last few months. I'll make an official roll-out shortly.

And lastly, my friend Rachel LaCour just "tagged" me with this "8 Things You Didn't Know About Me" game. I am going to resist the initial urge to be grumpy, as I normally do with chain letters and the like, and will be a good sport. I really enjoyed reading Rachel's answers to the same question, particularly her final response about hand-written letters, and I will post mine shortly.

See ya,


Matt

p.s. As always, double click on all the images for better viewing.

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