Photos embody emotions when words can’t express one’s true feelings. Photos remind one of love, sadness and happiness.
For military families, photos remain a link to a time of togetherness when a family member is deployed thousands of miles away from home.
Since September of 2006, Operation: Love ReUnited has captured the range of emotions of deployment and reunion.
Operation: Love ReUnited is a non-profit organization supported by volunteer photographers, donating their time and services to chronicle the sadness and heartbreak of saying “good bye” and the overwhelming emotions of arriving home after months or years of service away from home.
Photographers from around the nation and the world participate in Operation: Love ReUnited, including Rayna Hopkins of Red Oak.
Hopkins said she found out about the organization through a photographer’s forum just after she began a similar project for her cousin, Joanne Scott. Hopkins took photos of Scott and her fiance, Mark Acevedo, in the days before and the day of his deployment with the U.S. Army.
“Joanne said she wanted me to capture every emotion so that they could show their kids and say, ‘This is what we went through,’ ” Hopkins said.
In following Scott and Acevedo with her camera, Hopkins was able to catch a tearful Scott and a comforting Acevedo as they struggled with goodbye in the airport.
“I had a lot of reactions throughout the process. Part of me was really sad. Part of me was happy,” Scott said of the end-result, a slideshow of photographs set to music. “It’s just a piece of us I can keep with me while he’s gone.”
While Hopkins was with Scott and Acevedo, she also noticed a family in the airport. She began snapping photos of the family between photos of her cousin. From a photo showing the young son wearing his father’s military cap, to the father walking bravely, waving behind him, the slideshow serves as a constant reminder of the hardships experienced by military families.
Hopkins and the photographers within in the organization offer a complimentary photography session for the family, either casual or in uniform, before deployment.
“If someone is being deployed, we can offer a family session,” Hopkins said.
From that session, Hopkins will produce a photo album and slide show to send to the soldier at no cost.
Operation: Love ReUnited also captures the moments when a soldier comes home.
The organization’s Web site, www.oplove.org, allows interested families to find local photographers by typing in a Zip code. The Web site also includes galleries, information and a designation page for comments.
“If anyone is interested in our services, they just go to the Web site and look up a photographer,” Hopkins said.
The Web site also allows for interested photographers to receive information about volunteering for the organization.
“With deployments being spur of the moment, the more photographers we have, the better chance we have of someone being there for the family,” Hopkins said. “We’ve had families from four hours away and the photographers will travel to them. People are willing to go the extra mile to do this for people.”
For Scott, the photographs sustain her through the waiting and the uncertainty.
“It’s something very sentimental and something they’ll cherish for a lifetime,” Scott said. “It’s something that means the world to me.”
As Hopkins writes on her Web site, www.raynaphotography.com, “The Operation helps those long months go by a little faster. It’s designed to capture moments that you will never remember. It’s art. It’s love. And it’s all made possible by artists wanting to give something back to those who make the United States what it is, and ask for nothing in return — but to come home.”
For information on the organization, visit www.oplove.org.