I'll take a homecoming session over a deployment session any day, but they are both so incredibly special and important. I love getting to know these families and am grateful to be able to help in some small way. I love keeping in touch with them and checking in to see how they are doing after our session.
I provide hard-cover printed photobooks for both the service member and the family, as well as pillowcases for the kids (with pics of them with their deployed parent on them) - at my own expense which is not really sustainable due to the volume of free military sessions I do. The kids aren't told about the pillowcases and it's a really great surprise for them.
Oftentimes these free shoots include maternity sessions or newborn sessions - and it really hits home to see how much these heroes are missing. The families at home sacrifice so much as well - and the kids....gosh, it is JUST so hard on the kids. It breaks my heart to hear that they are having nightmares or unable to sleep or crying about missing a parent.
Unfortunately I have not been able to find a vendor whose printing is good enough AND is willing to offer discounts so, assuming 1 book for the deployed serviceman/woman and 1 for the family plus 2 pillowcases (average is 2 kiddos) plus shipping is around $100. So meeting this goal means we would help at least 30 military families (both those at home and the deployed parent/spouse) have a little piece of their family to hold onto while they are far away and not always able to communicate.
Every little bit helps and I would be so grateful for any donation, no matter how small. To clarify, no part of the donation will go to me - or the session/editing - that is 100% donated by me. Funds will be used to order & send these treasured mementos for both the family and service person to help them get through this difficult separation. Below are a few excerpts from some of the military families after receiving their books and pillowcases (names removed). It will give you an idea of how much this means to them as well as why I do it.
"It couldn't have arrived at a better time. I love that my husband cried, but I know he was trying to hide it from everyone there... We wanted these pictures done because of the scary 'what if' that can happen on a deployment, but it is amazing how much these books have made a difference in our attitudes. The pictures were beautiful and it is so nice to have them to look at and hold. He loved the pillowcases too. He knew [daughter] had been asking for a picture of him to put on the wall so she could sleep by it. He was telling her to make sure she didn't drool too much. Those were so perfect! "
"He [deployed husband] was smiling today...like really smiling. Normally he looks tired and completely worn out, but today he looked good. :) I brought our book to show off to his parents (and on Saturday to his aunts, uncles, cousins,sister and great grandma) and the kids of course brought their pillows too. THANK YOU!!!!"
"He got it today!!!! It got there so quick :) He called us to video chat just before we were leaving for his parents' house and [daughter] took my phone and ran to show him her pillow case... Then she gave the phone back to me and he said I got something in the mail today and he showed me his book. I said you cried, didn't you? And he said he didn't even make it past the 2nd page. Hahaha. He said thank you!"
"You made them both very happy. [Daughter] didn't even complain about going to bed tonight. She said she loves you. You picked her favorite pictures. :) She's been begging me to hang a picture of [Deployed Dad] by her bed and I didn't have one I could put on the wall so she finally has her picture of him to sleep with. [Son] was smiling, but I think he was a little confused about how the pictures got on there. He was happily poking at them and saying his name and daddy. :) Thank you!!!!! You picked something that was perfect for them!"
"I look at the book every day. [Daughter] loved it too. Her favorites were [Deployed Dad] throwing her, him hugging her, him kissing her...She didn't cry. She was excited and happy. :) After I sent that email that night, [Son] started pointing at the door and saying Daddy Daddy over and over again. I had to tell him daddy was still at work. He burst into tears and as clear as could be said I miss him. I was not expecting that from him. We looked through the book a few more times and he calmed down, but then when I went to put him back in bed he kept asking for the daddy book. He kept asking for the daddy book for almost an hour. He wanted to sleep with it. Poor little guy. That book means a lot. I can't wait to hear [Deployed husband] say he got his!!! I told [daughter] it was a secret/surprise and so far she has been good."
"It's so crazy how you picked all of the pictures she [daughter] said were her favorites and [son] is happy with his pillow...he's not asking to sleep with the book anymore. For bed he just wants his rocks (yes, actual rocks that he randomly picks out of the rocks he plays with all day long.), his cars, and the pillowcase."
So as you can see, this is a passion project. Would love if you could help in any way - if you can't donate, sharing this gofundme link on social media is also much appreciated.
Please say a prayer for these military folks and their families - they are sacrificing SO much to keep us safe.
Here's to many free, happy homecoming sessions in the near future! I can't wait!
My grandfather feeding my mom the one time he was able to meet and hold her.
- Rebecca Gehring
- Karen Kossow
- Lynda Costello
- Risa McCarthy
- Ellis & Rebekah Nottingham
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