Military homecomings are one of my favorite sessions. There is an anticipation and buzz in the air like no other. And to make it all more exciting is the notorious military timeline that often changes at a moment's notice. I spend lots of time getting to know my clients because we spend weeks corresponding over homecoming dates and adjusting schedules as their on-call photographers.
I fully recognize that deployments are one of the most challenging times for military families. Families are separated, kids go through life milestones, and memories are made. It is a chapter in many families’ lives filled with worry, sadness, and loneliness. So, joy and excitement fill the air when a homecoming date is announced.
That excitement transcends into the planning and preparation to create the most welcome homecoming experience for their service member. It’s an absolute honor and privilege as a fellow military spouse to be trusted to be part of this homecoming reunion. The privilege to capture this reunion's raw, authentic emotions is like no other.
In my most recent military homecoming session, I can tell you that the chaos the spouse and I experienced was unparalleled by any other session I’ve had. The date got changed multiple times, and the times were adjusted. And on the day of, we had a solid plan of him landing at 4:00 PM. At around 3:00 PM, I received a call that her husband would arrive early and land in 15 minutes. My heart sank, and I frantically told her that I lived 25 minutes from the base and was about to leave, so I would at least get there 30-40 minutes early. Now, I was not exactly sure I was going to make it. The wife was also equally frantic because she was still getting her son ready and left with whatever she had to get to the base in time.
Before we got off the phone, I was halfway out the door, didn’t say goodbye to my husband, and put my shoes on to get to the base as fast and safely as possible. My heart was thumping, my hands were sweating, and I kept saying, “I am going to make it.” I had never noticed how slow the base speed limit was until I needed this moment. Every moment counted, and I watched the sky to ensure the osprey wasn’t coming.
I parked my car, grabbed my bag, and ran as fast as I could pass the checkpoint and into the hangar. I saw my client. Palm outstretched towards her husband, who had already landed, made his way across the tarmac and yelled, “STOP!” Another pilot intervened to block the returning servicemember from progressing toward his wife. I screamed, “ANGELA, I AM HERE, GOOOO!”
Everything happened so fast; I watched them embrace and shoot frantically. I could barely believe that I almost did not make it.
We caught our breaths and slowly realized that all was well. Once the dust settled, onlookers approached us, saying they were rooting for us and that I would make it. I teared up from the relief, the emotions, and the absolute joy of seeing their son see his father for the first time in months.
I will always treasure this military homecoming as it reminded me of me a few things:
1. Get there 2 hours early- just in case
2. No amount of planning can prepare you for a military homecoming
3. Poses don’t matter, as what’s important is capturing the unfiltered story
4. It’s an absolute honor to be a military spouse
And while I have yet to experience a deployment as a new military spouse, I know there will likely be a time when I am undergoing this experience. I, too, will seek a photographer to capture the homecoming of my servicemember.
So if you’re contemplating whether or not you need a photographer for your homecoming, let this be a sign to go for it. And if you have any questions, I am always here to help.