I served in the United States Navy Ceremonial Guard from 1[phone redacted]. At any given time, there are just under 250 young men and women assigned to this prestigious duty station in Washington, D.C. The Ceremonial Guard represents the United States Navy in formal ceremonies and events throughout the National Capital Region for the Department of Defense, the White House, the State Department, and many other entities in Washington, D.C. Whenever you see a U.S. sailor standing proudly on the White House lawn or rendering honors to a fallen President or sailor in Arlington Cemetery, the sailor you are watching is assigned to the Ceremonial Guard.
During the years when I served, I knew a woman named Lena Kaljot, who gave much of her own time, money, and resources to photograph as many of the ceremonies as possible that we performed throughout the National Capital Region, and beyond.
Lena was very well-known and was our beloved "Guard Photographer". She seemed like a fixed part of what we did. None of us ever considered how or why she did what she did. Those many years later, she explained to me that it was out of pure love for documenting what we did and for sharing it with us all.
She worked extremely hard to archive and print the 35mm photographs she took, way before the emergence of digital photography. She often traveled along with the Guard to ceremonies, or followed the tour buses and met up with us at an event. She used her lunch time and personal vacation time to travel to our ceremonies in Arlington National Cemetery, The Tomb of the Unknown Soldiers, The White House, the Pentagon -- even to Mardi Gras to document the Drill Team in the annual parade -- and to so many other ceremonies and events around Washington, D.C. Lena would then meet us after hours to show us the photographs she'd printed and she offered them for sale to us for next to nothing. This way, we could share the images with our friends and families. I've wished many times I had bought more photographs from her and saved more of those memories... and so many others have reached out to share the same thought. "I wish I'd gotten more photos" or "I wish I'd kept more memories from those days". Well, now you can!
I met up with Lena in 2007. By then, she was ready to move on with her life after retiring from her job as a Marine Corps photographic archivist, and she wanted to clear out the massive collection of old photos and negatives she'd stored for nearly two decades. She gave me SEVEN very large binders filled with original color negatives from between around 1988 to around 2000. I have counted those negatives and they number more than 36,000.
Last year, Lena again contacted me to tell me she was ready to throw out the remaining images she had from our era at the Ceremonial Guard. I hastily made arrangements to pick up the second batch of images, and, after counting them, I found there to be in excess of 25,000 MORE photo prints and negatives.
There is a total archive of more than 60,000 historic images of the United States Navy Ceremonial Guard in action over a span of 12-15 years, from around 1[phone redacted] through sometime in the first few years of the new millennium.
In order to view them and make them available to download or print, the images must be professionally scanned and digitally archived. I have arranged an exclusive deal with ScanCafe, the industry leader in digital photo scanning, and they have agreed to support our project by reducing the rate for each image conversion from their normal cost of $.22-$.33 each to only $.18 each. At this price, the initial estimate to convert the first batch of images will cost around ~$8,000 (including the costs to ship the 65 pounds of negatives to be scanned, having them scanned and saved onto an array of hard drives, and then shipped back). The second batch of ~25,000 will cost another ~$4,000, or so and will be a separate initiative.
WE HAVE ALREADY RAISED MORE THAN $4,000 FOR THIS PROJECT, BUT WE NEED YOUR HELP!
Any amount will help us, but we have created a "Plankowner" donation level for those who contribute at least $100, which will entitle the donor access to the entire image archive.
Monies raised will be used EXCLUSIVELY to fund this archival project. Once we receive the digitized archive, we will begin the process of uploading the images and distributing copies of the archive to contributors.
We need you help to complete this project. This beautiful archive should be preserved and shared with those young men and women who served so many years ago; who rendered honors to our fallen sailors, and who represented the United States Navy in ceremonies throughout the National Capital Region.
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