Nine Miles of Memories

Just outside of the world famous city of Saratoga Springs, NY, known for the inventions of the club sandwich and potato chips, the oldest horse racing track in the United States, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC), the mineral springs, and the famous mineral baths that used to attract royalty and celebrities alike, lies a stretch of road nine miles long.

If you drive this nine mile stretch of road, you’ll pass through fields, over and along streams, and through wooded areas that seem to come alive with a past two centuries old. You won’t pass any convenience stores, but you’ll certainly see your share of wildlife; rabbits and deer call this place “Home.”

When you finish your drive through this landscape, you will be able to say you have driven through nine miles of the most historic pieces of land in America. You’ll step on some of the same grounds that helped shape our nation, breathed life into our independence from Great Britain, and where the turning point of the American Revolution took place.

I am talking about the Saratoga National Historical Park and the Battles of Saratoga. It was here where American patriots fought the British, defeating them and bringing the largest military force in the world closer to surrender. It was here where Benedict Arnold fought and was wounded. Yes, it’s along this road, that I not only relive history from colonial America, but also memories from my youth.

These grounds are not only home to deer, rabbits, and other wildlife. They’re not only home to centuries old trees that speak to you as you walk amongst them. They’re not only the burial sites of thousands of Continental Army and British soldiers. These grounds are home to some of my greatest memories in life.

It was along this road that I remember bike riding as a child. It was always a treat for us growing up, to load the bikes into the car and head to “the battlefield,” as we call it around here.

It was along this road that we used to come for a quiet drive, windows down (no matter how hot it was), radio off, and driving below the 25 mph speed limit on the one-way tour road. Even when I drive it today, I still turn off the radio and roll the windows down. It’s a land that although once soiled with blood, now demands peace; a land that once echoed with cannon and musket fire, now demands quietness. A land which was once filled with the battle cries of freedom, now asks for only whispers.

It was along this road that I learned to drive. My Dad once had a Ford Bronco stick-shift, and it was along these nine miles that I stalled and jerked the engine over and over. It was along this road that I learned how to push in the clutch, shift, stop on a hill, and come to a stop. It was also here that I learned the patience of a father.

Along this road I learned how to cross country ski, how to approach a deer from upwind, downwind, and everywhere in between. Along this same road is where I began to train and condition my body before joining the Air Force; running and walking the miles of pavement on cold March days in 2001.

Along these roads is where I returned in 2017 when I retired from the military. No longer a boy on a BMX bicycle, no longer a teenager learning to drive, and no longer a young man seeing how fast he could run a couple miles. I returned as an older man, weathered and experienced from life and death, war and peace, joy and sorrow. I returned to these grounds for one simple reason, and it’s the reason I keep going back.

From the very first day I rode my bike there, to the days I learned to drive, to the days my feet pounded the pavement, until now, the grounds remain the same. I return and can go to the same exact spot I went three decades ago, and it remains untouched. I can tell stories, or I can remain silent and just remember a day from years past come alive in the moment.

Nine miles of road. History shaped. Memories made. A life transformed.

For more information about this area, visit the Town of Saratoga Historian’s blog.

“Social Separation” – A Beautiful Day!

We have all seen on social media, television, and maybe our rare interactions with others during these extraordinary times, just how much of a toll social separation has taken. Not just on the economy, small businesses, family dynamics, but also on our social lives. Oh my goodness, what would we have done if COVID-19 happened pre-Facebook? Many would be devastated even more than they already are.

Each of us have developed our own coping mechanisms to deal with this newfound isolation. Me personally, I have spent more time outdoors and on trails than I ever have before. I have enjoyed it! I’ve enjoyed a simpler life; seeing people return to the basic things in life and have no choice but to slow down and just cherish the moment.

While I do yearn for a life of normalcy and seeing things return to normal, I am hoping that we never forget these days that have caused us to stop our daily routine as we knew it. When everything gets back to normal, I hope there are many lessons learned, and people will approach life in a more humble way.

One place I’ve been visiting more than ever, is Moreau Lake State Park, located in South Glens Falls/Gansevoort, NY. Not only does it have a lake that people typically frequent during the summer months, but there are plenty of cabins, rustic campsites, picnic areas, and a lot of hiking trails varying in length.

Just off the highway, it provides a sanctuary for birds and wildlife, as well as a place to center and feed the soul.



Take advantage of the time you have right now, to decide who you will be when all this is over. It’s a perfect time to hit the RESET button!

Stay safe everyone!

Walking Amongst Giants

Many of you who have kept up on my blog posts and who have gone further to check out my website, www.patriotimages.org, know that I am now heading into the second year of a project titled, “Faces of Veterans.”

The project, now turned into more of a journey, is focused on traveling across New York State and photographing as many of the 838,000 military veterans living within the state. Last year, over the span of ten months, we traveled to nine different NY counties and photographed approximately 1300 veterans and their guests. It has made a tremendous impact not only on the veterans and their families, but on me as well. So much, that I decided to pick it back up in 2020 and label it “Season Two.”

During Season Two, I am taking some of the feedback I received in 2019. Many viewers of the project expressed their interest in getting to know the veterans more personally. So this year, through the use of audio and video interviews, as well as photos, I am focusing on the more personal side of veterans and their lives.

Today was the first of what I hope to be many interviews. I met with a ninety-six year old WWII veteran named Mario in Lake George, NY. Mario was drafted after Pearl Harbor and became an Army medic. He spent eleven long months in Germany before returning home to his family. One of the things that I took away from today was his statement about why he joined.

“After the attack on Pearl Harbor, we had to do something. We couldn’t let this happen again. There wasn’t a man in my age group at the time who didn’t want to do whatever they could so this wouldn’t happen again.”

Mario “Doc” Mazzeo, WWII Veteran, United States Army

We live, breathe, and walk amongst giants. Mario’s generation, coined “The Greatest Generation,” is sadly a generation of brave American men who are passing away. There aren’t a lot of them left. Just several weeks ago, fighting infection, Mario was sent home from the hospital under hospice care. Thanks to his family by his side, his strong will to keep going, and his perseverance, Mario was full of energy and humor this afternoon when we spent a few hours together in his home.

Mario (left) and myself (right)

May God bless our men and women in uniform. May we never forget their sacrifices and their service to this great nation. May we honor them, their legacy, and forever remember that freedom is always a generation away from extinction.

Thank you Mario and family for such a great afternoon, for allowing me into your home, and sending me home a rich man with a full heart.

What is, a “Traveling Man?”

“One travels more usefully when alone, because he reflects more.”

Thomas Jefferson

I, like most people, enjoy traveling. Since my days in the military, I haven’t traveled to a foreign country; but I enjoy traveling within the United States, and even here at home within New York State. I enjoy traveling with my family, but there’s something about traveling alone that really clears the mind and refreshes the soul.

Most of the local traveling I do is during the months when snow and ice isn’t slowing me down and limiting me to distance. I enjoy driving up into the Adirondack Mountains, taking a scenic drive along Lake Champlain into Ticonderoga, along the back roads of Saratoga and Washington Counties, and occasionally crossing the border into neighboring Vermont. If it’s a nice cool day, I enjoy the windows down and breathing in the country air.

Many probably come to this site because they’re looking for travel photos and a blog about traveling to different destinations. Oh, but a man or woman can be a traveler, even if they never board a plane. You can be quite the extensive traveler and never leave your own home. Destinations don’t always have to be places that flash across a screen in an airport, or cities and towns printed on a sign on the side of a highway. They don’t have to be white, sandy beaches or snowcapped mountains.

I travel on a weekly basis and seldom leave my local area. Sometimes the most worthwhile trips are the ones where I’m alone. Many of my greatest trips where I discover the most, are done without leaving my house.

Like Thomas Jefferson stated, one who journey’s alone spends more time reflecting. I spend a lot of time in thought; thinking about the present and also the things to come. While I believe I have no control over tomorrow, I am convinced there are things I can do to help shape it. I can do my best this very moment to live a decent life, to love those around me, to be kind to both stranger and friend, show compassion, be humble, and more.

What is, a “traveling man?” In my case, it’s a person who is always exploring; not just the world around them, but also within themselves. It’s a person who is always moving forward, never desiring to go backwards and having to retrace their steps. It’s a person who is on a constant journey to be better tomorrow than they are today.

Travel wisely my friends.

Who Am I? Part 1

Sitting in church recently, the pastoral staff spoke about identity. Some of the examples they gave sent me wandering down a rabbit hole of thoughts as I wondered who I am. What is my identity in this life?

We know life is short. Our childhood years pass by so quickly, and then we are thrust into the world of a young adult; going to school or working (sometimes both), and then BOOM!, we are adults with responsibilities. We quickly find ourselves with families, full-time jobs, bills, struggles, and serious decisions with serious consequences attached to them. For most of our lives we get into a rhythm of going to work, managing a home, raising a family, and the years fly by. By the time it is all over with and we realize how quickly it all seemed to come and go, we find ourselves with gray hairs (or no hair), a body that creeks and cracks with every step, and we are planning our final years of life. Life is short.

Who am I? That’s the question I have asked myself so many times before, but as 2020 approaches, I ask myself again; this time more seriously. Who do I really want to be as I go into this new year? I realize on February 1st, I will turn that age that most people (including myself), cringe at. The big 4-0. I’m not looking forward to it and it is a big reminder that life passes us by so quickly. Will it bring a midlife crisis? Who knows. But what I do know is that it is causing me to think deeper into many things. Who am I?

Last year I was on the brink of beginning a new adventure that took me through nine different New York State counties, where I photographed over thirteen hundred military veterans along with their families and/or guests. It was a journey that put me on the front page of a couple local newspapers and in front of television cameras. It was an adventure that was not only therapeutic for me, but for so many people I met. It’s an understatement for me to say I met some of the finest people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. Here I am however on the eve of a new year and I am thinking what adventures will take place this coming year.

When I go certain places, I am often met by comments like, “Hey, you’re that guy traveling New York and taking pictures of veterans,” or, “Hey, I saw you on television.” How do I want to be greeted this new year? When I sit here at this computer a year from now, Lord willing, what incredible journey do I want to be writing about? With as much control as I may have over this next calendar year, what do I want to seal in the history books of my life? Ask yourself this same question today. This is the final day of 2019 and a new year will begin as a new day; inevitable and with a clean slate.

As far as my answer, you’ll have to wait until next year. See you tomorrow for Part 2!