Deployments are too hard on families, and homecomings too joyous, to give much thought to documenting the occasion. Your loved ones are the first thing on your mind, and a camera… well, it’s much further down the list, if it even occurs to you at all. Tonee Lawrence found this out the hard way. Her husband deployed to the Middle East in January 2005, and when he returned some months later, she had little to show for it photographically.
Operation: Love ReUnited was started a short time later, in September, 2006, so that other service members and their families would have a means of documenting these occasions. The first shoot was by Lawrence herself, for a friend whose husband was being deployed. In the five years since, hundreds of photographers – some, like Lawrence, military spouses, others just volunteers with a passion – have captured literally thousands of images of service members and their families, both as they depart for overseas operations, and during their return home.
Participating photographers waive their fees, and agree to send a 4×6 printed album of the images to the deployed soldier, at no cost to the family. When homecomings are photographed, the photographer gives an album or a cd of the images to the returning military member, all with no financial obligation by the service member or their family.
The organization has gotten attention from military spouses (hardly surprising), but is also the only organization whose policies and guidelines have been fully reviewed and approved by the Department of Defense (you can read the DoD’s feature on the organization here http://www.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=52589).
The organization is still looking for photographers, especially to be able to mobilize large numbers on short notice when troops are deployed. Monetary donations are also sought in order to defray the organization’s members’ travel expenses, which can be considerable. You can find out more about Operation: Love ReUnited’s services, volunteer guidelines, and network of volunteer photographers by visiting their website, http://www.oplove.org/ You may also find them on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/oplove .