Major Chris Wingate deployed with Task Force Spearhead to Europe in support of operation Atlantic resolve, working with NATO allies throughout the European theater to train and build on the partnership and to prevent Russian aggression in the region from as far North of Latvia to as far South as Romania and Turkey. Major Wingate and 446 other soldiers from 3-227 Assault Helicopter Battalion (AHB) concluded their nine month tour in mid July as their family and friends welcomed home their soldiers back to Fort Hood, TX... and I had the absolute privilege and honor to document such an event.
I met Danielle through our Church a little over a year ago just before her husband deployed. I never met Chris, but only heard great things. I was able to grow an effortless friendship with Danielle and get to know their daughter that was born during her husbands deployment. Thankfully he was able to come home for such a joyous event, but shortly after had to return to his duties. When she asked if I would want to photograph their coming home reunion I was so excited for so many reason. I am a proud American who stands behind her troops. I also have many friends and family members in the service and I have never been able to welcome those close to me home because of location differences, so it was an honor to be apart of this in such a special way.
The morning of their arrival, we met up with some of Chris & Danielle's family who decorated their home with "Welcome Home" signs and American flags. We then headed off to base to welcome home their soldier. Let me paint a picture for you... Flags, children waiting to see their mom and dads after 9 months, wives awaiting that first kiss home, mothers and fathers waiting to hug their children and friends awaiting to see their faces once again in person. Talk about emotional!! We met on one of the larger fields at Fort Hood and they bused in 5 buses full of soldiers. They had them exit on the opposite side from us. Once they were all out, we chanted "Move that bus!! Move that bus!!" With victory music playing the soldiers were revealed and began marching towards us in unison, the crowd was flooded by tears (myself included). I cant even imagine how those families were able to contain their bodies and not run towards the soldiers. After a brief flag reveal and a thank you to the families, friends and soldiers who returned, we were allowed to "charge" our loved ones. One by one families were meeting again, some for the first time.. in the case of Major Chris Wingate and his daughter, for the second time. The Wingate family was reunited at last!
As an America Citizen, if you have not welcomed home a Soldier, I cannot encourage you enough to do so! It is the most rewarding, emotional and proud event I have ever been to. Please remember to thank those who have served for your freedom, sacrificed themselves and their own families for yours. God Bless America and Welcome Home Task Force Spearhead.