A good thing in Karin Markert’s life is coming to an end, but her past two years of Army experiences have been more than good - they have been extraordinary.
Since 2012, Karin, wife of 3d U.S. Infantry Regiment (The Old Guard) Commander Col. James Markert, has watched the ceremonial pomp that accompanies life at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall and the surrounding stone rows of valor, honor and bravery in Arlington National Cemetery.
She considers herself The Old Guard’s “embedded photographer,” but the JBM-HH photo opportunities will cease, and discs and discs of TOG digital memories will be shipped southwest when the Markert family moves to Fort Hood, Texas, in June.
Markert has documented the sunrise in front of Arlington House and the tomb sentries’ continued resolve during winter weather at the Tomb of the Unknowns. She has walked JBM-HH’s Lee Street and snapped photos of the Caisson Platoon rolling to another funeral and military honor guards front and center at Old Post Chapel.
One of her favorite Arlington traditions is Flags-in, the 66-year annual event where Old Guard Soldiers enter Arlington National Cemetery the Thursday before Memorial Day and diligently place an American flag in front of every gravestone.
When an Army family moves, time is precious, yet for Karin, there was time to photograph one more Flags-in.
On May 22, Karin took cameras in hand for the third and final time to capture the simple, profound elegance of patriotically placing a flag on a servicemember’s grave. Before her Flags-in finale, her mind was keen recalling her first pre-Memorial Day experience.
“We moved in right before Flags-In two years ago,” she said. “I think our first days [on the joint base] were May 18 or 19. I remember, we walked down to the [Arlington National Cemetery] metro stop, and on the way back, I saw the Soldiers and the Regiment. That was the first time I really had a chance to look at them was during the  Flags-In. That was the first time I took pictures of the Soldiers, too.”
For her final Flags-in, Karin positioned herself in Section 17, and while Soldiers filled rucksacks with American flags, she armed herself with her 35mm camera and her newest weapon – a 360 degree, spherical camera. During her photography, she routinely talked to Soldiers and shared the significance of Flags-in with them.
“I was just talking to a kid from Ohio,” she said. “He’s done [Flags-in] three years now, and he probably has another year. This is the only place he’s been since he joined the Army. Most of these Soldiers are so young when they get here, but he’s seen quite a few different things he wouldn’t see in Ohio. They might not see that this may be one of the highlights of their careers right now, but talking to some of the alumni, so to speak, today’s Soldiers will look back at this and remember [Flags-in] 10 or 15 years from now, or they will come back or see pictures in the paper, and it will remind them of what they did.”
As she walked over the ANC sod, she optimistically spoke of the weather with a quick “we’re hoping the weather holds,” and recalled past weather conditions and the quality-control measures TOG Soldiers displayed in 2013.
“When the storm came up last year, some flags were blown out of place – maybe a third of them – the Soldiers went back in and replaced them,” she said. “They put quite a bit of care into this.”
Markert said she feels “blessed” to have had the honor of being a close follower of The Old Guard, and that she has witnessed a piece of U.S. history during her time and photo sessions with the Regiment’s Soldiers.
“I take the pictures for the kids and their families, so they can see them on social media,” she said. “This place [Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall] has been very, very special. It’s hard thinking we’re going to have to leave.”
As for final goals inside photographing inside Arlington, she accomplished one during her final Flags-in.
“I’m going to try not to cry,” she said.