True love is timeless. It is never-ending. It is patient, strong, and it can kick any deployment's butt. Maybe not in those exact words, but every military spouse has repeated that mantra probably a thousand times in her head. It's like an athlete pumping himself full of affirmations before the big game, or an actor envisioning a standing ovation even before the curtains open. If we think we can, then we know we can. And a deployment is the perfect opportunity to test your strength as a wife, a mom, a partner-- as a woman. Getting through it is one hell of a mental challenge, but the sense of accomplishment at the end is like no other. Sometimes I think having your husband home is the consolation prize. Realizing you are super woman-- now, that's the stuff blue ribbons are made out of :)
Photographing homecomings allows me to meet all kinds of amazing women. In each one of them I witness a confidence and fortitude so unique to military spouses. Yessica was most certainly one of those women. She defined class, sophistication and femininity. I watched her interact with her son with a gentle touch and kind, soft words. She was so nurturing, and yet I could tell by just looking in her eyes that she was a tough cookie. The kind of cookie that not even Afghanistan could make crumble.
Yessica waited alongside her mother-in-law and her husband's Godmother, all the while keeping her toddler entertained. As soon as the buses arrived, the crowd erupted into a victorious cheer, but we were forced to wait a little while longer as the Marines headed to the armory to turn in their weapons. I sneaked over to the buses in an attempt to get the first glimpse of Yessica's husband, but I had no such luck. Just moments after I made it back to the parade deck, the Marines started walking towards the crowd, trickling in one by one. As soon as I saw that big smile headed our way, I looked over to Yessica's face for confirmation. Yep, this was the man she had been waiting for so anxiously. What followed was a sweet, endearing exchange of hugs and kisses and tears-- and a father/son reunion I can only describe with these photos. It was emotional and genuine-- exactly what you'd expect to see in a movie.
O'Connor family, here is your homecoming story as told through my eyes. Enjoy!