I love photography. There is just something about a simple photo and the emotion that it displays. Cherished memories are caught on film to be passed down for generations. History is remembered and recorded in a quick snapshot. Loved ones can watch a child grow from miles away, especially now with so many online photo sharing websites. The phrase, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” attributed to Frederick Barnard in the 1920’s, has never been more true. Before my husband left for his deployment, we had a friend take photos of our family. We had photos taken of my husband in uniform with each child, as well as the whole family. We even took pictures of just the two of us, which is something that we had not done since our wedding! The photos turned out beautiful and I am so grateful that we have them now that he is overseas, and the kids love their “Daddy pictures.” To me, this was one of the best things I did in preparation for the yearlong deployment. Ever since my husband left a few months ago and I’ve gotten to know other military spouses, I’ve seen multiple photos of children wearing their father’s (or mother’s) uniform or holding a picture of their deployed parent. The photos are so beautiful and show the emotion of what the kids are feeling about their parent being gone. I knew that I wanted to have photos of my children like this to document this major event in our life, so I took to the Internet to do a little research.
After entering “military families” and “photography” in a search engine, I happened upon a wonderful organization – Operation: Love ReUnited, or OpLove for short. “Operation: Love ReUnited is a non-profit, fully volunteer organization that offers professional photography sessions to military families and members who are getting ready to deploy, who are currently deployed, or those who are coming home.” (www.oplove.org) There are so many wonderful organizations and businesses that offer their support and services to the military and their families, but this way beyond what I could ever ask for. OpLove offers families two free photo sessions surrounding the deployment, with four choices of sessions: “Pre-Deployment” – with the military member “Saying Goodbye” – taken as a documentary of the farewell “Already Deployed” – with the family members left at home “Homecoming” – as a documentary of the arrival home I was thrilled to find that there was a photographer in our area and immediately contacted her. Since my husband had already left, we chose the “Already Deployed” session, and will hopefully have a “Homecoming” session when he comes home. Before he left for the deployment, I had debated asking our friend to photograph the farewell ceremony, but thought it was too much to ask. But photos are so important to me that after the ceremony, I was left feeling like I did not capture the moment as I wanted to remember it.
At the same time, I did not want to be snapping away when I should be giving my last hugs and kisses. So to have a photographer who will come to the homecoming and capture this incredibly emotional time is priceless to me. In addition to offering free photo sessions, the photographers provide a variety of the photos free of charge to the deployed soldier and the family. The photos are given either on a DVD or in a 4×6 album. Our photographer went above this and even created dog tags with our kids’ pictures to send to my husband, in addition to the 4×6 album. She also gave me a discount on any photos that I wished to order that were not included in the OpLove session. She went out of her way to make this special for our family and I am forever grateful. Our photo session was incredible. We met in a beautiful park and brought along my husband’s uniform and boots for the kids to wear. Of course, my kids decided to show a variety of their personalities, from wild to shy, but the photographer snapped away and was incredibly patient. She spent an hour taking pictures in multiple locations with various outfits. Since her husband is military as well, she was able to make our session more intimate and personalized. The photos turned out more beautiful than I could have expected, with my favorites being of my kids wearing their dad’s uniform and saluting. You can just see the pride on their little faces. I am so grateful to our photographer and to Operation: Love ReUnited for providing this service to military families. It is more than generous and is something that I know I will cherish for the rest of my life. These photos capture the emotions, struggles, and joys that our family has felt during this deployment. They truly capture a moment in our history. I cannot thank you enough! To learn more about Operation: Love ReUnited, go to www.oplove.org.