I walk through the airport and find the mother whom I was to meet. She glances at me and smiles, glistening tears threatening to break through . She has two young children in tow with her. The older one is holding a sign that reads “Home is where the heart is , and ours is finally back!” She clings to the sign and looks up to me with a hesitant smile. “I’m going to see my daddy today” she exclaims.
“I know sweetie, isn’t that wonderful!?” I reply. I instantly fell in love with this little family.
I learn that mom was in the air force before and now her husband has been deployed in Afghanistan all these long months.
“We have been having the baby video chat with her daddy.. we’re hoping that will help her come to him and not be scared when she sees him.. it’s been such a long time…..” I swallow back the waves of emotion that are threatening to bubble up again and smile and tell her that I am sure she is going to be thrilled to see her daddy. I can’t imagine my husband being gone for so long. What a truly strong and remarkable woman she was.
We wait for a while by security. Her husband calls and tells us he has landed. They run back and forth trying to find the perfect angle to see him. They hold up their signs and wait. “Any moment now guys”. One minute turns to five minutes, still no sign of him. As the third wave of tired passengers walk by, the elder of the two girls goes and sits on the step. Eyes filled with apprehension . “He’ll be here soon,” I hear her mom encourage her.
Just then, I hear mom exclaim, “He’s here!!! ” The girls jump up and they all run to their spots. Suddenly I see an airman walking down the hallway towards us. His face is tired, but there is so much emotion, so much joy in his eyes. He’s home! The 7 year old jumps up and runs to meet her daddy. He picks her up in a warm , big embrace and holds her close. They cry together and then I watch as the little one year old runs to him with no hesitation in her step.
She knows who this man is. “Daddy!” I hear her exclaim. He picks her up and hugs the girls close; his wife runs toward him and they all hold each other in a huge embrace. Crying together, finally a family again together. This is too much for me. I step back and feel my hands pressing the shutter. But I can barely concentrate as emotions continue to flood through me.
For nearly a year, this man was separated from his family, serving his country in the most selfless way. He did this for us, for all of us.
The man looks at me with tears still in his eyes and says, ” thank you, Ma’am”. “No.. thank YOU! ” I hear myself reply. I look at him in shock as I merely captured their uniting.. yet he fought for my homeland. He protected his family. My family. Our country.
We start walking towards baggage . As he walks, he hugs his young daughters close once more. Suddenly, he stops and gets down on his knee and proceeds to “propose ” to his wife once again. “Thank you for always loving me and being here for me. Will you continue to be my wife?” She grins and tears are fueled again.
I am in awe of this beautiful family. I am so honored I was there to capture this amazing soldier’s home coming. Too often, we don’t think about the families and what they are going through as they are missing their brothers, spouses, child as they are over seas. And the soldier … the pain of knowing they can’t wake up and give their child a hug in the morning when they want to…
I am so very touched and thankful to all the men and women who are serving our country. It is truly the most selfless act I know of.
Thank you to this airman and to all the men and women who are serving and have served.