Recently, I had the privilege of attending a dear friend’s homecoming for her husband. It’s hard to believe that it has been over a year and a half since I have photographed their beautiful wedding set among the red rocks of Garden of the Gods. It’s even more difficult to conceive that over half of that time since their wedding, Casey has been deployed in Afghanistan and Addie has been without her loving husband. Thankfully, Casey was returning home, safe although Addie’s patience was tested as delay after delay put the homecoming off for several days.
When we arrived, families sat anxiously waiting for any word of where and how close their loved ones were. A projector played images of their soldier’s past 9 months of accomplishments, activities and memories. The families of children were 1 of 2 emotions: incredibly excited by their surroundings and anticipation or so tired they could barely keep open their little eyes.
Finally though it came, albeit around 11pm at night, we sat waiting for their arrival. The projector then aired footage of them departing the plane, unloading their gear and boarding buses to the hangar filled with their loved ones.
And then finally, almost like Cinderella, they appeared before midnight to a thunderous cheering crowd!
I was unaware but a new tradition for these homecomings has been set that a raffle occurs while families are waiting. Tickets are sold and 1 is drawn for 1 lucky person (usually a lady) gets the first kiss of their soldier before anyone else. At this homecoming a young woman, waited with a single white rose to surprise her soldier. And she made good on her kiss and he was definitely surprised (and happy!)
And then of course the moment I know Addie was waiting for! In these moments, nothing else mattered. It didn’t matter that it was almost midnight on a Wednesday night, that news crews and cameras surrounded the room, or that these men were tired, hungry and jet lagged. Everyone in that room was happy, ecstatic actually, overcome with love, tears and the presence of their loved ones. And of course so grateful to be home.