Sunday, January 27, 2013

Tearful Farewells and Emotional Homecomings

Oldest Son just after graduation from boot camp
Since my oldest son joined the Navy in 2002 and my Son-In-Law joined in 2006 there have been many tearful farewells and emotional homecomings. I am sure any parent who has a child move far from home experiences joy and sadness saying goodbye or welcoming their child home after a long spell of not seeing them.

Son-in-law leaving for boot camp
While most of our farewells and homecomings have been emotional only a few exceptions have they come close to the level of emotion experienced when sending a loved one off or welcoming them home from a military deployment.

With the kids and their families on the East coast and us back home in the Midwest it was not possible to be there when the boys left on their different deployments or when they returned from deployment, so while I did experience the worry of them being deployed and the relief of knowing they were finally home safely, I did not experience the full impact of such events. Our farewells and homecomings were generally during the summer time when they were home and on leave, or when they were able to get long enough leave to bring their families home for a visit, so the emotions were the typical family reunion emotions.

Just after Thanksgiving, our friend Brown was transferred to a ship that was already underway and we saw him off as he was flown to join the ship on deployment. Just before Brown left he asked if I would come to the pier when his ship pulled in from deployment to photograph his return. I was honored both to be there for him and to take photos of his return. The experience showed me just how much I missed not being on the pier during such important times. 

Saturday morning dawned crisp and cold with Norfolk having received an unusual snowstorm on Friday. We arrived at the pier about an hour before the ship was due to arrive. Many people were already there. Most were inside a heated tent, erected on the pier for the occasion, while others were taking advantage of the snow cover as these children building a snowman are doing. 

Service members worked diligently to clear the pier of snow.

Finally the ship was in sight, with tug boats maneuvering it to the dock as loved ones watched with tears of joy and whispered prayers of thanks.

Once the ship was along side the pier and tied off people were allowed to go out onto the pier to watch for the loved ones. I thought it was pretty awesome that they allowed the families of service members who had a child born during the deployment go first and after a few minutes opened the pier to everyone else.

As you can see there was a good size crowd waiting for the returning sailors to come ashore. The atmosphere was nearly electric with emotion. Excitement and anticipation buzzed all around us. With the temperature barely reaching 30 degrees and the cold wind blowing off the bay it was a long cold wait. 

Weekly Top Shot
Since we were waiting for a friend and not an actual family member we stood toward the back. After almost an hour the crowed had thinned to only maybe 40 people standing on the pier,  and we were beginning to wonder if maybe we had missed Brown.  Then all of a sudden we saw him coming across the  brow, I snapped a few quick shots and then went for a hug. I was so glad to see him safe and sound back in the states. I couldn't help but think how proud his mother, who passed away last fall, would have been to see him come off that ship, and how much I had missed not being there to welcome my boys home. 

Ever since Val suggested we offer to photograph Service member Farewells and Homecomings free of charge I have been all for the idea. Now that I have experienced one I am more determined than ever to let people know that we will photograph these events locally free of charge.

So if you know a service member in the Norfolk area that is having such an event and needs someone to photograph it let them know about us.

After an exciting and cold day yesterday I spent today relaxing indoors. Now head over to one or both of these great meme's to see what is going on elsewhere:

Unknown Mami


Keetha Broyles said...

Wow. Very touching indeed.

When I was in high school, a friend of our family, who had been our friend since he and I were children, said farewell and was off to Viet Nam.

He didn't have a homecoming.

As an adult I was finally able to go find his name on the Viet Nam wall in DC. That was his homecoming for me.

Dorothy said...

This is a fantastic thing you're offering. I attended a ramp ceremony in Afghanistan for a Canadian soldier who was being sent home in a casket. I didn't know him but it was still extremely emotional.

Anonymous said...

Lovely shot of him, flowers, stuffy and a smile... what a wonderful way to use your photographic skills to bless others... Thank you for sharing on Weekly Top Shot #67!

Wayne (Woody), whatever said...

Top shot, indeed, thanks for sharing this story with us, it'e very heartwarming.

Fun60 said...

What a wonderful story. I really like the idea of recording the homecoming.

Nita Davis said...

As proud as I am of my boys and the many service members' who risk their lives for our country I wish there was no need for them. My heart goes out to all that do not have the joyful homecoming and instead deal with the devastation of losing a friend or loved one to war. I have visited both the moving war memorial and the Viet Nam wall in DC and both were very humbling. Especially when I visited with my husband to try and find his uncles names.

Nita Davis said...

My heart and thanks goes out to the soldiers' family and friends. I can just only imagine how heartbroken they must be and how emotional such a ceremony would be for anyone observing.

Nita Davis said...

Thank you for stopping by and for hosting the Weekly Top Shot.

Nita Davis said...

Thanks Wayne

Nita Davis said...

Thank you. I really enjoy photographing homecomings and hope to photograph many more of them.

Carol L McKenna said...

Wonderful family post ~ so much love! Great photos ^_^

Carol of A Creative Harbor

thanks for coming by and commenting ^_^

Unknown Mami said...

This brought tears to my eyes!