I have had the opportunity of shooting many different events over the last few years, but this was one of the most special. Afton asked me several weeks ago if I would be willing to photograph her husband's first homecoming ceremony, and I thought it would be a really great opportunity, so I said 'yes.' I was not at all prepared for the impact that this event would have on me.
My husband's unit does not have any ceremonies when they leave or come home from a deployment, so even though we have gone through quite a few deployments together, I have never gotten to see something like this. I also have never before been in a situation where you can physically feel the excitement that these families are exuding, but I ended up feeling more and more excited as we waited for the hanger doors to open to all of the arriving loved ones - even though my husband is already home, and I wasn't waiting on anyone special to me.
Perhaps it was getting to see so many families reunited - mothers and fathers seeing their children for the first time in 9 months, fathers getting to meet their new babies for the first time, parents welcoming their children home, or parents seeing how much their families had changed in their absence - or perhaps it was seeing months of selflessness, both on the part of the soldiers and on the part of the families left behind, all being made 'worth it.' Whatever it was, I had a very difficult time not getting teary.
If you ever have the chance to see a homecoming like this one, you should definitely go - even though you're not going to see anyone in particular. This is an experience everyone should have.