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Goodbye, for now

BALTIMORE -- In the beginning I didn't know how long it would last. Now that it is almost over, I don't want it to end.

I joined late in life and quickly found out how tough it could be for an old man to do a young man's job.

I grew to love photography again. Recording others people's actions for others to see and gain their prospective came naturally. Bil Bowden and Paul Kuehnel had taught me well as a teenager.

They are staff photographers at my local newspapers. They took a teenager who enjoyed photography and turned him into a professional and I am very grateful.
Through my early 20s, I photographed people and occasionally wrote about them for the readers of my hometown to enjoy.

I would eventually move on to a full-time job that had nothing to do with photography, so I could move out of my parents' home and start my own life.

But after about a decade of jobs that paid the bills, I was drawn back to my passion.

The Air National Guard gave me the opportunity of a lifetime.

I learned to communicate effectively through not only photographs, but also written, spoken and implied words.

I learned all about relationships.

It's the relationships you form that matter the most in life. Wayde, my former public affairs officer, taught me that.

I could not understand why he would trade in his wings as a loadmaster flying cargo missions, my dream job, to become an officer flying a desk instead.

He taught me about how the words, photographs and interviews we do with both the public and news organizations conveyed a message about why we do what we do.

He and the other officers and NCOs throughout my career shaped my skills by the relationships they taught me and I am thankful for that.

As I transition to a civilian life once again I will probably put down the camera.
For at least a little while, I will just enjoy life without the pressure of the picture coming out perfectly. I will no longer worry that I need to throttle my opinion because others will assume what I say is a message from the military.

I'm getting my right to say what I think instead of a positive message that Lou, my former public affairs non-commissioned officer in charge, trained and sometimes restricted me to say.

I will always remember fondly being entrusted to tell the story of others.
Whether it was reporting on pilots and loadmasters flying milestones or documenting relief missions to the gulf coast during Hurricane Katrina, I had fun.

I felt privileged to accompany our civil engineers when we rebuilt an elementary school and memorial in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

The times we responded to severe weather in Maryland also stick out - Hurricanes Isabel and Super Storm Sandy. We provided comfort when times were difficult.
Even during the Baltimore riots, when Ed, my public affairs superintendent, and I told the story of our chaplains reaching out and providing comfort between Raven's stadium and Oriole Park at Camden Yards, have lasting positive memories in my mind.

I think I enjoyed fini-flights the best and the most recent one I witnessed was very special.

Brig. Gen. Scott L. Kelly had a remarkable flying career and now has transitioned to a non-flying but even more important administrative position.
Kelly, as the assistant adjutant general-air, will oversee all the Airmen in Maryland.

He really guided my career for the past decade.

A real people person, he guided the 175th Wing through transitions of losing the C-130Js, gaining C-27Js, losing them a short while later and gaining a cyber-mission. He has also dealt with the impending loss of the A-10C in the near future. He did it with the relationships he built and entrusted us to carry out.

I helped record his fini-flight in October and they are some of my favorite photos of my military career.

One thing for sure is that I will treasure my military career and think fondly of the relationships that have developed over the years.