Welcome Home, Gintai! | Military Homecoming Photography {Cherry Point, NC}

I’ve always wanted to try my hand at military homecoming photography and I can finally say it’s just as fun as I’ve always imagined! I was thrilled when my sister-in-law, Kaela, asked me if I’d consider driving over to New Bern, North Carolina to document her military husband’s return from deployment. Since it’s only a few hours away from Durham, I happily handed off Povi to my parents, stuck Aidas in the co-captain seat, and zoomed off towards the coast. 

Pilot & Family

My brother-in-law, Gintas, just spent the last seven and a half months overseas, piloting C-130’s for the marines. During his deployment, Kaela stayed in New Bern with their two sons, one of whom was only a few weeks old when Gintas left! I might have called Kaela “Supermom” more than a few times during this experience, because I just can’t imagine doing the single-parenting gig for that long. Especially with a newborn! She not only kept herself and the kids alive and healthy, but also managed to keep both dogs and the same number of fish alive as well. *one fish perished while they were out of town, but then another fish had four babies, two of which survived, evening the balance.* Kaela has a whole village of family and friends who she attributes to helping keep her sane through this experience, including Gintas who (thank you, technology!) she was able to Facetime regularly.

When I arrived in New Bern on Sunday afternoon, it was fun to see the palpable excitement in the air. HER SOLO MISSION WAS ALMOST COMPLETE! Kaela kept saying how psyched she was to hand over the reins, even as she tried to keep the troops together for those last few hours. Although I was technically only there to document the homecoming itself, I couldn’t help but pull out my camera to capture those last few hours of waiting and anticipation.

Calendar Date

The morning of the Big Day, Kaela bustled around, checking item after item off the half a dozen lists she had floating around the house, occasionally pausing to snuggle Leo and hit Replay on Aeneas’ TV shows.

Mom getting ready

“Viskas Gerai” is Lithuanian for “Everything is good.” Such a perfect banner for such a joyous occasion!

Viskas GeraiBoy plays with planeDeployment HomecomingEveryone gets readyThe Marine Corp Air Station outside of New Bern, North Carolina is Cherry Point. This was my first real experience of being on a military base and it was completely fascinating to me: an entirely new world of ID check points, uniforms everywhere, parking spots designated by rank, and bustling families eager to see long-awaited loved ones. Everyone gathered within the shadow of a huge hanger to wait, handmade signs clutched in hand. Aeneas’ sign read “Dado all done fly planes,” a question he often asked his mom right after Gintas had deployed and to which Kaela could finally answer “YES!” Kaela’s own sign said, “Labas lovey!” “Labas” means “hello” in Lithuanian and “Labas, lovey!” is how Kaela always greets Gintas over the phone. Leo happily alternated between snuggling a doll with his dad’s picture on it and waving a miniature American flag. All the spouses in the vicinity were texting eagerly with their military significant others, getting minute-by-minute updates of when the planes would arrive.

Plane lands

a plane in a hanger

Flag waving

Cherry Point Homecoming

Welcome home sign

Little boy holds flags

{ Military Homecoming Photography }

Two boys

Mom points to planes

We were told that the planes would first do a fly-by over the hanger before landing, so there was a lot of excitement leading up to the giant roaring of the planes. Kaela didn’t tell the boys that their dad was coming home until we were actually IN the hanger, so it was at this point that Aeneas finally started getting it and trying to climb out of the stroller to find his “Dado.”

Planes flyingCrowd waitingWaiting wifeSonsFamilies waitPlane taxies

Wife & sons

Families Wait

It seemed like the second the planes landed, the entire air strip was flooded with uniforms. And let me tell you – differentiating people in a crowd of identical uniforms is HARD. Kaela and I were both still searching through all the faces when suddenly Gintas was right there in front of us, laughing and hugging and kissing Kaela and the kids.

Soldier returnsMilitary Homecoming PhotographyI like to think of this blurry photo as the camera giving Gintas and Kaela a moment of privacy! 😉
Fuzzy memories

At first, Aeneas didn’t seem to know what was happening. For a solid five minutes, his smile seemed confused and searching, even as Gintas was scooping him out of the stroller and exclaiming over how much he’d grown. Leo, the baby, was a bit suspicious, too. Kaela and Gintas couldn’t get the grins off their faces, though, and kept going in for more ecstatic hugs. It was so wonderful seeing the family reunited again! After about the dozenth kiss, Aeneas suddenly seemed to get it and began squealing happily and begging to be in his Dado’s arms.

Dad sees his sonFamily DeploymentFamily ReunitedFamily ReunitedFamily ReunitedFamily reunitedDad & SonTogether at lastGiggles and reunionDad & SonsFamily reunitedFather & Son

As the crowd began to disperse, we walked over to the C-130’s to get capture some family photographs near the planes.

Family ReunitedPilot family

I’m so in love with this image of Aeneas! Definitely one to be framed. <3

Pilot's son

We were even allowed to pop into one of the off-duty planes for a photo of both boys in the cockpit with their dad!

Father & Son Plane in Cherry PointMarine & sonMarine wife

Kaela specifically requested photographs of the dogs seeing Gintas for the first time. Both dogs LOVE Gintas, so it was fun to hear their shrill barks of excitement and see them running around like crazy. Mila seemed to immediately grasp that Gintas was home, although Kai (who’s younger than Mila) was just so excited to be outside, that he didn’t seem as focused on Gintas.

Homecoming & petsWelcome homemarine & his wifeMilitary soldier & familyMarine & Family

Military Homecoming Photography

Gintai, we’re all so excited you’re home safe and sound (and with plenty of amazing memories of all the places you traveled, to boot!). Kaela, enjoy having your hubs home again and be sure to pass off all poopy diapers for the foreseeable future! I hope all four of you have a wonderful and easy transition to being back together again and many beautiful family adventures this coming summer as you relax together!





PS. Interested in booking your own military homecoming photography session? Email me and let’s chat! I’d love to document your reunion!

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