News Column

Shutterbugs Welcome Home Soldiers

Nov. 5, 2012

Jennifer Calhoun, The Fayetteville Observer, N.C.

Family Photo

When Amanda Page's soldier husband returned from Afghanistan, she wanted to record the moment on film.

But carrying around the couple's 9-month-old daughter, a diaper bag and a camera seemed like a little too much for Page.

She decided to do what a growing number of military families are doing these days: She hired a professional photographer to photograph the homecoming.

Photographers said military families have been hiring professionals to record their homecomings for a few years.

But the trend became even more popular in recent months, said Sally Siko, owner of Silvercord Event Photography, and Annalesa Alverio of Indie Anna Photography.

Both Siko and Alverio have spent hours waiting for planes to land, watching fidgety children and nervous adults and looking out for those pictures of raw emotion when a family is finally reunited.

"It's pretty awesome," Siko said.

Siko said she often charges less for the homecoming jobs than she would for other assignments because of the importance of the event and the emotion involved.

The expressions from husbands, wives and children coming back together after a long separation are some of the beautiful ones Siko has seen.

"It's life-changing," she said. "It's truly life-changing."

Alverio said she started doing military homecomings when she signed on with Operation Love Reunited, a nonprofit organization that offers free photo sessions for families who have someone deploying. Alverio also shoots some events for her paying clients, as well, she said.

It's keeps the photographers' schedules booked. During a flurry of recent homecomings, Alverio shot four in a row.

"When the big brigades come home, we're so busy," she said.

Alverio, who is an Army wife herself, said the experience, as well as her volunteer work, make her feel closer to the military community and what they go through. Sitting through a homecoming with a wife and children anxious to see their soldier, and men seeing their young babies for the first time, can be a moving experience.

"It's really something powerful to see that raw emotion," she said.

The experience is also an amazing professional experience, she said.

"Emotions are so high-strung," she said. "There's all this tension building up, then there's this huge sigh of relief."

Alverio said she sees the same phenomenon when the soldiers are released to find their families. Even when lost in a crowd of people, the families always seem to find each other.

"They don't know where to go, but they always gravitate towards each other," she said. "It's that connection, and nothing else matters."

But if the experience is a fascinating one for Alverio, the pictures can be an important part of a military family's pictures, Amanda Page said.

"I want my daughter to look back and see what we all went through, and that we made it and that we're a strong family," she said. "I want those memories."

Distributed by MCT Information Services

Source: (c) 2012 The Fayetteville Observer (Fayetteville, N.C.)

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