OpLove – Homecoming

Posted on March 25, 2011

I was contacted by Andrew while he was still in Iraq…he was coming home and he wanted to surprise his wife (of only 4 months before he was called for duty) with pictures of their reunion. Pictures mean a lot to them and this would make her so happy. Andrew and I emailed back and forth and it was all set…I would show up at BWI and sneak around snapping images trying not to be to obvious.

Andrew’s dad, Bob, came and found me while the rest of the family was upstairs having a drink to calm their anxiousness for Andrew’s arrival.

What a wonderful family!!! Bob told me that Andrew’s 3 friends from kindergarten (yes, I know!) flew in from all over the country to see him come home. Andrew had no idea. So there were surprises all around….I could feel the strength of the love they have for each other….

The tension was so thick as we stood there and waited for his flight…his friends kept asking people if they had been on the same flight number Andrew had as there were a bunch of flights that all came in at the same time…we were all so giddy with anticipation…

Then…there he was…and I could feel everyone’s breath come out in a big exhale as everyone was laughing and crying….I love being able to do this.

Thanks Andrew and Kelly….you can now go watch your wedding video that Kelly hasn’t been able to watch since you’ve been gone. And I hope you enjoy these….

When we give back to others, we are also giving to ourselves.

Posted on March 9, 2011

I firmly believe this. That feeling of elation is like no other. Knowing that you have touched someone’s heart by giving of yourself.

I started shooting for the organization Operation Love Reunited (OpLove) a year ago. I was nervous in the beginning, as with any new experience. I wanted to be able to do these families justice for having to sacrifice so much for our country. My first homecoming was a little nerve racking. I wanted to be able to capture that magic moment when a person sees their loved one finally after being apart. That smile, that exhale of anxiety that comes from the fear of not knowing what will happen until they are back safe in their arms.

I get choked up watching a child anticipate seeing their parent walk through the door and run to them being scooped up in their arms and hugging so hard as if they would never let go. The emotion rushes through me and my camera captures it when it does.

I believe that my experience photographing weddings helped me out tremendously. The patience I learned to observe without interfering and wait for emotion to happen and to just be ready when it did.

Shooting for OpLove has become a great love of mine. The families help me as much as I help them.

If you, or someone you know, have family or friends in our country’s armed forced who are deployed abroad or going to be, I highly suggest you check out the OpLove website. The organization hooks up photographers in your area with families offering complimentary photography sessions. It’s our way of giving back a little for the huge sacrifice they have made. Families are allowed one pre-deployment session (or mid-diployment) and one homecoming session. Small 4×6 albums are then sent to the deployed service member.

These are just a few of my favorite moments (from the many!) from these sessions….

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all images copyright Melissa Arroyo Photography