'Ode to Joy'

'Ode to Joy'

March 9, 2011

Funeral for Col. Charles Dockery

Yesterday, I was privileged enough to be able to take photos of the funeral of Marine Col. Charles Dockery. Every time I step onto Arlington National Cemetery it always sends chills down my back. For most, just seeing the headstones is enough to remind them of the sacrifice many service members make for their country.


But witnessing the burial of fellow Marines is nothing short of gut wrenching. Although I had never met Col. Dockery, I felt like one of my best friends was being laid to rest. I even had to hold back tears as they played Taps and I watched as his wife wept uncontrollably while she stared at the silver casket laying in front of her. It was also hard as I watched his parents, who are in their 90's, holding hands during the service. Luther Dockery, kept embracing his wife, bringing her closer to him as she cried during the entire funeral. He was being the rock of the family. Although he never cried, the look in his eyes told me how much pain he was holding inside. Like I said, gut wrenching.

Funerals are filled with raw, unfiltered emotion and they are tough for me as a photographer. I know that this is the last moment they have to mourn their family member and it always makes me uncomfortable. But, I remind myself that I was requested to take photos for the family and it is my job to capture the Marine's last moments.  Although I never met you Col. Dockery, I hope these are fitting.

18 comments:

  1. These photos are beautiful, but I can imagine how difficult they were. Today I'm attending a funeral of a 3 month old baby boy, and I can't begin to know how to comfort a parent who has lost a child.

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  2. Diana Dockery RockwoodApril 4, 2011 at 3:14 PM

    I am Col. Dockery's sister Diana. Thank you so much for writing this wonderful article honoring my brother. It amazes me continually how many have honored him-even those that didn't know him. It comforts our family in our grief. He truly was a wonderful man, brother, husband and son-and a Marine's Marine. We miss him so much. Thank you again.

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    1. Diana - My name is John Ragland. I knew Colonel (then Major) Dockery first at Texas A&M when he was on the Degree Completion Program (1982 - 1984). I met up with him again in Quantico, VA, (1984 - 1985), in Athens, GA (1985) and El Toro, CA (1985 - 1986). Unfortunately (for me) I lost track of the Colonel at that time. I left the Marine Corps in 1991 where I was the deputy comptroller for I MAW (where the Colonel later served as assistant wing commander). When I Googled Colonel Dockery last week and I was stunned to learn of his passing last year. I hope I am not opening wounds that have been partially healed, but I want you family to know how much I admired and respected Colonel Dockery. He was a true Marine and a true friend. If any of your family wishes to contact me I can be reached at jpragland@gmail.com.

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  3. I am a cousin, I agree, what a honor.

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  4. The loss is unimaginable. The honor is very much deserved. Thank you, family, for your ultimate gift. Thank you, Marine, for the ultimate sacrifice. A friend of a relative who posted the photos.

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  5. Although the pictures are extremely good, the subject matter is so terribly sad. My son is a former Marine having served for over 9 years. My husband is retired Navy. I am so blessed to have them in my life. I can only imagine the heartache this family must feel. God Bless you Bobby for sharing these photos with us. We should never forget them!

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  6. Cheryl L. DockeryApril 10, 2011 at 9:25 PM

    Bobby: I am Cheryl Dockery - the woman lucky enough to be Colonel's Dockery's wife. The words you have written here are beautiful......and the pictures captured the honor but extreme sorrow we all feel at losing this wonderful man. Thank you for being there. May God bless you and your work.
    VR, Cheryl Dockery

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    1. Cheryl,
      I just learned yesterday of Doc 's passing. We were together 67-69 on KC-130s. I did meet you one time 69 walking in Santa Anna and I picked you guys up and we rode around awhile. Of course Doc was having a big coke!! I emailed another friend from those days Mike and he immediately called me. We talked about Doc and what a great guy he was with us back in those days. We both said we haven't seen him in 45 years but the world is a sadder place without Doc. Rest in Peace Doc!!

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  7. Bobby, My wife and I were among the many Marines, enlisted and officer alike, and friends who hand the priviledge to know and serve with Col. Dockery. Your article is outstanding and your photos captured the amazing service that was so well deserved. Keep up the great work.
    Semper Fi!
    Mike McCullough, GySgt USMC Retired

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  8. Mrs. Dockery,

    I appreciate your kinds words. Although I never met your husband, I have great admiration for him and his service to the Corps. I also have great admiration for you. It takes a strong women to stand by a Marine throughout his career, so it speaks volumes about your character. I am sorry I didn't get to pass on my condolences to you and your family at the service. However, I hear you will be a guest of Marine Barracks Washington for our friends and family parade on April 29. I look forward to meeting you then.

    V/R
    Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough

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  9. Larry Baker, GySgt., Ret.April 11, 2011 at 9:20 PM

    It was indeed a great pleasure to serve under and work for such a person, man and Marine as Col. Charles Dockery. He will always be a shining memory of my service as a Marine and always an honor to be able to say "Yes, I knew that man and am proud to say so!" Semper Fi, Buzzard!!!

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  10. I'm still blown away that Col Dockery has passed! He was tough as nails and he was the type of guy that you thought would live forever. I had the pleasure of serving with Col Dockery in Okinawa when he was the Asst. Wing Commander for 1st MAW. As a young Sergeant, I remember him walking down the halls on Friday afternoons and telling everyone to go home and enjoy the weekend. The Col would not leave the building and go home if there were still Marines in the building working. If he felt like the work could wait till Monday, he would order you to go home and it wasn't up for discussion. Col Dockery was a fearless leader that told you exactly how it was, I never saw him bite his tongue for anyone. Col Dockery hated when I briefed him on unit readiness on late Friday afternoons (that seem to be the only time his schedule was open). When the brief was done, he would always share his wisdom with me about the Marine Corps and life. Some of my great memories of him were observing him standing on the balcony at 1st MAW every morning watching the morning colors and then getting angry when the Japanese flag beat the American flag up the flag pole. I remember him busting the unit mascot (english bulldog) from Corporal to Lance Corporal for whining and barking while he was talking to the Marines in formation. Lastly I remember him getting orders to III MEF. He would sometimes ride his bike to work and we both would laugh about how the hills alone the way would kick his tail and his legs would be shaking once he got to the top of the hill. He said " Malone I be wanting to hop off the bike so bad and walk the rest of the way up the hill but I have too much pride to show weakness to people passing by in their cars". To the family and friends of Col Dockery please accept my condolences and know that God definitely has an awesome son, brother, father, husband, and Marine amongst his ranks.

    Semper Fi
    GySgt Malone

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  11. Your work is of the most importance. While you capture images that you see, your also capturing a piece of life and that piece is what we call history. History doesn't have to be the most exuberant moment, sometimes it's the smallest the most un-fascinating moment.

    But be that as it may all moments that capture your eye deserve to become a memory, a piece of history so all can remember. Human life will go on through memories and history and that means we never die, we live forever.

    Every time someone see's one of your photographs in brings honor and life back to that captured moment.

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  12. Bobby: I will be TDY to Quantico the week of 19 June and intend on attending the sunset parade at the Barracks on Friday, 24 June 2011. I sincerely hope to meet you there.

    VR,
    Mrs. Charles 'Doc' Dockery (Cheryl)

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  13. Mrs. Dockery,

    I would absolutley be honored to meet you on June 24. Take care until then.

    V/R
    Sgt. Bobby J. Yarbrough

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  14. Mrs. Charles 'Doc' DockeryJune 19, 2011 at 10:35 PM

    Bobby - I will be at the sunset parade on Tuesday, 21 June. Will you be the guy with the camera? I do hope you will be there so that I can meet you.

    VR,
    Cheryl Dockery

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  15. Cheryl
    I'm so sorry to hear of the Colonels passing a few days ago. I was the senior Enlisted Marine at COMNAVAIRLANT in Norfolk from Jun 96 to Jun 99 and worked with the Colonel there. What a great Marine and friend, my God he treated me with such respect, as he did with everyone. He nicknames me "Peaches" because of a Pipe tobacco, but that's another story. When he left CNAL we presented him with a wild west Holster for his quick draw pistol. Boy, he seemed to love that thing.

    My deepest regrets on the loss of such a great Marine. Semper Fi always. MGySgt (Ret.) Gary Stillwell

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  16. Daniel "Dano" McGee LtCol, USMC (Ret)December 14, 2011 at 2:43 PM

    Cheryl Darling,

    I say a prayer for Doc's eternal rest everyday. I know he is looking down on me and reminding me that I'm still "boot" to him. Semper Fidelis, Dan "Dano" McGee LtCol, USMC (Ret)

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