A year ago, I began thinking about how I could use my business to give back to the community. I came across an article about Operation Love Reunited, an organization of photographers that volunteer their products and services prior to the departure and after the homecoming of millitary tours of duty. After going through the application process and a long wait, I was finally accepted as a participating photographer. I posted about this back in May. Last week was my first chance to participate in this program.
I was contacted by a wife of a member of the Air Force. Her husband – and several other military servicemen – would be coming home from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. This would be the first time that wives, children, friends and families would be seeing their loved ones in over six months. After meeting with officials at the Orlando International Airport, we were escorted to the gate where their flight would be arriving.
The men left Afghanistan four days earlier, and this was the final leg of a very long trip home. Intermixed with passengers excited to go to Disney World, these men were just looking forward to sleeping in their own beds again.
After waiting for a few minutes as theme park-bound guests got off the plane, I felt this crazy rush of adrenaline as all of these mini reunions were occurring around me. I was snapping my camera as fast as I could, not knowing what to shoot next. It was crazy and exciting at the same time. I said to one of the other wives that at a wedding, the main focus is usually the love between the bride and groom, but this time, all around me were couples reuniting for the first time in a long time.
I had a chance to step back a second and observe what was going on, and realized that all of the outbound passengers were now on their feet applauding these brave young men.
The families were very appreciative that I was there to capture the moment because, as one military wife said, “It’s much easier to give hugs without a camera in your hand”. As I got on the monorail headed back to the terminal , I felt very emotional about the amazing event I had just witnessed, and am so glad that I could do a little bit to help.
Out of respect to the families, I have decided to keep their emotional private celebration just that – private. They will be given the images from the day, but I will not be sharing any of the images publicly.