A local Army wife arranged a few Welcome Home surprises for her husband the other day. The first one began at the Airport, upon his arrival, it was filled of family, friends, flag holders, bike riders, 1st graders with their families, supporters of all kinds & even the local news. It was a great turn out, he was definitely not expecting it.
The 2nd surprise was the next morning with a quilt dedication at his daughters 1st grade classroom & I was asked to photograph these surprises (by Nancy, the teacher of their 1st grade daughter). Saying that I cried when I read the text with the request, is an understatement. Jon has learned I cry quicker than a pregnant woman & he just simply laughs at me now & asks 'if I'm getting dehydrated, do I need more water?' (ha ha, funny guy!). But seriously, put yourself in this 1st graders shoes & tell me you wouldn't be just as excited about your daddy coming home. I rest my case!! ;)
The photo below is the first time holding his new baby boy, pretty hard to soak in everything he must have been feeling!
This next one, is his 2 year old holding his flag out just for me, I didn't even have to ask, LOVE THAT! I think I'm more of a photojournalist, I love being in the moment.
Yep, that's one happy little girl & it's wonderful to think that her daddy got to tuck her in his first night back, touches my heart just thinking about it, I bet she made every excuse to Not go to sleep. Did I mention they got filmed & interviewed by KRCR TV (Channel 7), even the baby. What a C-U-T-E baby!!!
Good to be back home & in those arms. Oh what I would have done for better lighting.
Remember, the hugs, smiles & happiness doesn't stop here. His daughters 1st grade class also prepared a surprise for him. When he brought his daughter to school the next morning, arranged by mom (of course, mom was sneak-ay), he opened the door to find a classroom, again full of family, friends, parents, other students, soldier supporters, Channel 7 News, a Record Searchlight photographer & little ole me, were awaiting him when he opened the door! The students made banners for his arrival & announced a welcome when he walked in, how cute. A grandmother of another student made him a quilt with pictures drawn by the children, enjoying their freedom & dedicated it to him, it was hanging in the front corner of the room as he walked in....
The students & Spc Williams had been pen pals during his time away from his family, so they kinda got a little personally involved with this soldier & wanted to show how much they appreciated their freedom. For 1st graders, they really "got it". The teacher thought (and I agreed with her), that it was due to this classmates father being away, seeing how much she missed him & how happy she was that he was finally coming home for a visit, that made the difference.
Another students mom sang a few patriotic songs. then each child walked up to the soldier & thanked him for their freedom while shaking his hand. They also said why they were thankful, which was also on their own square of the quilt. I didn't have to hear what was being said to feel the moment, the teacher already told me what they were going to say & yes,...I still cried. The soldier held it in a lot better than I did (of course) & while smiling the whole time, he listened to each child patiently. I chose the photo of his daughter during the hand shaking, cause she got the perk of hugging her hero after saying the grown-up words she'd practiced.
He was more than appreciative to his daughters teacher, Nancy. What a wonderful, caring person she is. I'm not alone in that feeling, I found that out during these incredible events I witnessed, she is very loved.
The quilt maker & the quilt, click on the photo to see it larger, it's an amazing quilt. This woman made an impact on me, I know what goes into making these & I wasn't even the recipient of the quilt, I could image how the family feels. She was dedicated & driven to get this personal project to this particular soldier, she helped each child draw on every square. There's several stories about how the quilting machine broke down, how the soldier was sent to a location where he couldn't receive packages & more circumstances to lead up to him receiving the quilt on this day, a day I got to capture. Makes me cry. I wouldn't have missed it for anything & so glad I didn't (there's a story behind that too, I almost missed it). Lots of stories, in honor of one special man. I want to take a photo of the family all wrapped up in it (showing how warm, safe & happy their family is to be wrapped in all that love). Then put it back in protective plastic, lol!
This last photo is one of my favorites, it's the hands of the quilt maker, taking a photo of the family in front of the quilt, she made for them. I haven't even started their slide show & I can't stop crying just listening to the song I chose & viewing their photos. What an incredible thing to be a part of. Thank you to the family for allowing me to capture these special memories & to Nancy for the invitation. Their story was on the local KRCR news, on the front page of the Record Searchlight & it's going national this weekend on Fox News. Amazing!!!!
PERSONAL NOTE: It's hard to select only a few photos. I didn't do a whole lot of editing to most of these, I wanted to get them up quickly for the other friends & family to see what they may have missed. Sometimes you can't have everything happen in the best lighting so you have to get a little photojounalistic & do your best. Because in reality, in these cases, most people simply care about the moments you capture, not if the lighting is "perfect", so I hope everybody understands & (most importantly) agrees. What's important to me in these cases, is that the image tells a story & I'm searching for the emotion in that story, ...simply put, that's what I love doing the most. What a way to finish off the first month of a great year. I have a few exciting events going on in the month of February & I can't wait to capture them! I can't show everything I photograph but it sure doesn't change how I feel about each incredible memory I get to witness! Especially one's like these. Welcome Home Spc Williams!!! I hope you have a great visit. Take care & God Bless!