Hey Hey, everyone! I'm apologize I've been quiet lately. It's SO unlike me...I know, I know! After my husband returned from his deployment, we packed the kids up and took off to a beautiful beach down south to spend some vacation time together!! I'm telling you...if I could have packed up my whole office, I totally would have! It WAS good getting away though!
As promised, I'm sharing the photos from my husband's military homecoming!! Again, it's only fair since you all allow me to share your love stories with the world!! Well, this is only a teeny tiny bit of mine. I also apologize it is about six weeks late but we've been busy catching up, vacationing, and all that good stuff! This did give me the idea to share bits and pieces of our lives here and there though! So, let's start with the basics, shall we?!
My husband enlisted with the United States Air Force when he was just 17 years old and just a few months after 9/11. We began dating that next month (I was 15) and he left just six months after that for basic training. He's been enlisted every since...going on 16+ years now. We've never known any other life together. This was his third "long" deployment to what we like to call "the desert". We can't actually tell you where he was, of course. He left last summer right before the second half of my busy wedding season began! I was exhausted, as you can imagine! He's traveled the world almost every year in between deployments with the exception of when our children were very young...we got lucky he was able to stay home!. I was also lucky enough to tag along for a few of those trips unofficially. It's been a crazy ride as you can imagine with lots of ups and lots of downs and lots of smiles and lots of tears! I will say it has been worth it though and an experience like no other! So, let's start with some goodies and one of the most painful but exciting experiences for a military family - a military homecoming!
It's VERY important to note I did not take a camera this day or take any of these photos. Well, I DID take a camera but immediately handed it over to Kari - my assistant/second shooter/calmer of all things stressful extraordinaire! That's right...she was sweet enough to take the day off work to photograph these beauties (her hubby David came too...remember them? I photographed their wedding too!! You can see it here.)! I take no credit for any of these beauties except for the editing! So, here's some of her test shots! You know us by now...we ALWAYS pose for test shots! Of course, I couldn't let them be boring. It was freaking COLD and windy (as you can see)...but I did my best! HA!
Kari said she was so nervous. I kept laughing at her and telling her she was ridiculous. I mean...she's done like 10 weddings with me now. THOSE can be nerve racking, I tell ya! JEESH! Apparently she doesn't think so though.."Weddings are easy. THIS is stressful," she said! I guess that's good information to know for all my couples!
So, we were waiting around for the planes to arrive. These homecomings are a bit different than most you're used to seeing because we get to stand right on the lifght line. The guys fly in on their own planes with their own pilots so there's no waiting around at the airport. The planes snuck up on us though when they flew in. I had promised all my social media friends I would stream it live so they could experience it too! So, it was a race!
So, there I was...filming the whole thing with a frozen iphone! The battery drained FAST! I should know better too...my camera batteries do the same thing. Honest to goodness, my brain could not function this day. The joy and emotions going through me made all sense go down the drain! My kids and I had been counting down for almost half a year and even though I'd done this a couple times before...the excitement wasn't any less.
...and because Kari is so awesome...she anticipated this moment and caught the plane! My hubby was on that one :-). I love this photo so much! It's so simple but tells a big story!
...and FINALLY...they landed and started taxiing in. I can't even begin to describe the feelings you feel when those tires hit the ground. After brutal months leading up to the deployment and anticipating that awful "goodbye" and then lots of Facetime chats and missed calls and scary stories on the news and scary movies that come out "based on real accounts" and the "what if something tragic happens" thoughts...those tires hitting the ground mean a whole lot more than "just landed". It means that all that worrying was for nothing because they are officially home safe! I literally hold my breath when they're coming back over the Atlantic. This trip back my husband said "We might have to stop for gas. The tailwinds are going to be rough and we might not make it." Ughhhhhhhh...thanks for that info.? Goodness.
...and the closer they got the more the whole thing became even more real. When you see that flag flying you realize this isn't just stuff you see in movies and see on TV. This is real life stuff that happens to people every day. It's funny. I remember watching movies as a little girl and thinking how exciting it would be to be married to a man in uniform.....Well.......it's exciting alright! Talk about dreams come true...and more!
It brings happy tears to my eyes just seeing these photos. I mean we were SO HAPPY for them to be home but it's so crazy to try and imagine how they feel! They had been cooped up together working 12 hour shifts 5-7 days a week for months. These guys and gals missed all the holidays, birthdays, breakfasts, bedtime stories, you name it...they weren't a part of it. I know what it feels like to have them home but I can't begin to imagine how they feel!
So, we waved and we cheered and we hooted and hollered! If I've shot your wedding, it's pretty much the same thing I do during those during formal photos sessions too! HA!
At this point, I didn't know which plane my husband was on...I knew he flew in on the first plane but I got all confused when they were taxiing in because somehow they switched and the second plane got in front of the first.
OoOO the happiness!! Seriously, you can't imagine the joy straight down to my bones I was feeling! Ironically, I was looking at hte wrong plane!
...and because I'm never one to miss a photo op...I turned around and videoed Kari photographing me! HA!
Then, we waited and it was chaos...and I was walking the wrong way!
But we figured it all out thanks to Kari's husband David (Hi, David) who works on base! Finally, it felt sooo sooo real. Becasue we could see them...and that meant they were HOME! I couldn't tell which one was John at this point. Kari kept saying "look for his walk" and sure enough...I learned he DOES have "a walk". Who knew?!
I was thinking..."seriously, guys...walk faster"!
He's in the back there. No hat. Here's the thing about my husband. He's the complete opposite of me. For those of you who know me, imagine me...and then the opposite. My husband is definitely the opposite. He doesn't get overly worked up about anything. He's very quiet. He doesn't talk much. He doesn't even walk fast!
So, I grabbed my kids. We had practiced this. I had shown them videos of homecomings on YouTube because there was no way a 2 and 5 year old would get it. I was pretty sure they'd know what to do but my worst fear was they would act afraid or shy. I definitely didn't want that to happen!
You can't see him, but I can tell you 100% this was the moment I spotted him up close!
The very big difference about this homecoming was I relinquished the first hug...and I was 100% ok with that. My kids missed their dad like you wouldn't believe. He's very much involved with them and has his own things he does with them that no other person can replicate. We'd been talking about this moment for so long...I'm not sure they both understood that all this talk about Daddy coming home would eventually become real life!
I practiced in the mirror all morning so I wouldn't ugly cry!! AND I DIDN'T! So, group hugs for everyone!
Gosh, I'm telling ya...THAT right there is the BEST feeling EVER!
My daughter was SO happy to see him but my son was a little confused!
I don't think he really thought Daddy was really there even though we'd talked about this for a long time! Check him out. He's just standing there taking it all in!
I was so happy! SO HAPPY to see him!
We had to keep telling Jack to hug him! HA!
My daughter didn't miss a beat though. She jumped right up with him to get her Daddy time! Check out her sweet, little, excited face!
Then, it was time to say "hello" to the rest of the family who came to the homecoming!
I couldn't get enough of saying "Hi" to him but my daughter wasn't giving up her time either!
It was the wind people! ;-)
THANK YOU, KARI, FOR PHOTOGRAPHING THIS SPECIAL DAY!
We're just so so so so happy to have him safely home!
I also want to take a moment to thank all of my family, friends, and clients. I definitely want to thank my mother in law and my mom first for watching the kids EVERY SINGLE TIME I had a session or wedding (and it was a lot of times). I could not have done it otherwise! To all the other family members and friends who stopped by, brought dinner, played with the kids, watched the kids, cleaned my house, etc...I am forever grateful. A deployment without kids and a business is HARD...a deployment with kids and a business is nearly impossible. I'm proud that we all did it! We survived! Everyone made it home!
Now, I just need to say something about my clients...they are the best! THANK YOU from the bottom of my heart for dealing with my schedule conflicts and late night email replies! To all the family members and friends and guests...I will never forget the kind words, wisdom, and support you gave me. I never would have imagined you all would have supported me the way you did! I have the most amazing memories from the past six months and you all are most definitely a part of them! During a time when I sometimes just wanted to cry, you all gave me the outlet to just be me and to "step away" from the stressors of real life and smile and laugh and be surrounded with love! Last year was definitely one for the books!
Bring on 2018! It's going to be even more amazing!
Welcome Home 911th Airlift Wing! WE MISSED YOU!