Wednesday, September 22, 2010

While You Were Gone: First Anniversary

Blogging has been slow for the past few weeks, as I've been starting out a photo column for the Pilot, which explores the lives of military families with their loved ones deployed. Working on this column has been one of my favorite tasks so far this year-- every week I get to sneak away from daily work for a few hours, and get to a place where my heart is really open and the people I'm photographing truly care to have their stories told. I also write an extended caption, which takes me back to my days before I was a photojournalist. I appreciate writers every day, and even more on the days when I'm sitting with a blank screen in front of me and no idea where to begin. So often writers write about the process of writing-- the struggle and the uncertainty. I understand. Four down. Eight to go.

Last year, Samantha Hill would not have imagined that her date for her first wedding anniversary would not sit across from her, but fall asleep in her arms just after the appetizer was served.

Riley James, 5 months old, with his father’s face and a calm personality, is a stand-in for Samantha’s high school sweetheart and new husband Justin, a boatswain's mate handler on the Truman. From rival schools and FFA clubs in California, the two have know each other since they were freshmen in high school.

“He was washing his heifer, and decided I needed a shower and he drenched me with the hose. This was at the Kern County Fair in California. It was meant to be.”

“He’s always the one who remembers of anniversaries. For our first anniversary when we dated in high school, he had a dozen long stemmed roses delivered to my 7th period English class with a card that read “Sorry I couldn’t be there. Happy Anniversary. I love you.” Ever since then, he’s always done something romantic.

“I’m not thinking about what he’s missing, but about all the things he will be here for; Riley’s first steps, his first words. When he asked me to marry him he told me ‘you’re not just marrying me, you’re marrying the Navy, and there’s no knowing where and when they’ll ask me to deploy.’ I said, ‘no problem.’ This doesn’t feel like my anniversary. I just feels like another day that he’s gone, another day closer to when he comes home.”

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