Last week, I had the pleasure of photographing my very first Navy homecoming. As a military wife myself, I too have experienced so many hellos and goodbyes in our four years of marriage. Thankfully, my husband and I weren’t together yet when he deployed to Afghanistan in 2012 (we married the following year) but in 2016 I welcomed him home from 12 months overseas in Japan. It was easily the happiest day of my life (aside from the birth of our daughter and our wedding day of course). When Maria reached out needing a last minute photographer, I knew I wanted to be a part of this special day.
Being a weekday and living so far from family, I had no one to watch Allie for this session, but thankfully Maria was super understanding and allowed her to tag along. We were up bright and early by 5:30 in the morning and out the door an hour later. Even having a 6 month old, this was quite early for us, but it was really fun to watch the sunrise over the ocean. I always see the sunset, but rarely see the sunrise so it was a nice little treat.
Being a Marine Wife, I actually had never been on a Navy base before so I was quite confused in terms of finding the exact location I was supposed to be in. But thankfully, I was still super early and had plenty of time to get there and get settled in before the ship pulled in.
Since I had missed my husband’s deployment in 2012, I actually didn’t know too much about homecomings and hadn’t really been in this sort of setting either. It was almost magical being surrounded by so many military families anxiously awaiting the arrival of their loved ones whether it was a mom, a dad, a husband or wife. So many people were there ready to welcome everyone home. Their ship pulled in at around 8am which was another exciting and amazing moment as a military spouse. It just makes you so proud to have a loved one in the military and proud of everything these brave men and women do every single day.
Once the ship fully pulled in, we then had about two hours to kill before they started exiting the ship. Again, I’m not a Navy Wife so I’m not sure what happens during that delay or why there’s such a large delay, but man were my legs dead from standing by the time I got home! I couldn’t even imagine the amount of patience these families had waiting for their loved ones at that point. They had waited months for them to come home and then had to wait an extra couple hours with their loved ones’ ship sitting right in front of them. These ladies were much more patient and calm than I would have been.
By 9:50, they finally started clearing the ship. It was such an incredible moment. There were so many families there anxiously looking for their loved ones as they exited the ship. Maria had mentioned that the ship had stopped in Hawaii to pick up others who were traveling to San Diego so some sailers arrived carrying their little ones off the ship. So many babies were meeting their dads for the first time as well and with it being right before the holidays, it was the absolute perfect time for a homecoming.
You could tell this girl was excited to see her husband because the moment she picked him out from the crowd she booked it! Zero heads up whatsoever. I should have worn sneakers! But it was such a great moment watching her reconnect with him after so many months apart. While my husband and I are more than ready to move on from military life, I have such a huge respect for the brave men and women who put their lives on the line every single day. So if you’re active duty, reserves, or prior military, thank you! And thank you so much to all their loved ones who stand by their side and support them every step of the way.