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Welcome Home, Bittner! Military Homecoming in San Diego, Ca

Updated: Oct 21, 2019

So for the past three days, I have been trying to find the words to go with these pictures. I have literally been sitting here and erasing and sitting here and erasing.

The girl in these photos is a dear friend of mine from high school.

Chris was a year ahead of me and we met thru Frosh-Soph basketball. She was the point guard and could buzz around the floor, so cute, tiny, and full of love and spirit - I quickly nicknamed her "Little Bug" and it stuck. For the next 3 years (until she graduated), I would pass her in the halls and always get a big smile and a "buzz buzz buzz." After graduation, as usually is the case, we moved on from high school to new and exciting adventures and lost touch along the way.

Fast forward 20 years (yes, 20 years) later. I receive a Facebook message from Chris, asking if I might be available to take pictures at her husband Adam's military homecoming in a couple weeks. Last I had heard, Chris and Adam were living in Hawaii, so my first thought was "ooh vacation!" Then I realized, no, they were back stateside, and not very far away, living in Carlsbad.

Of course when I saw her message, my immediate reaction was "oh my gosh! yes! of course!" - then I realized what date it was, and that I already had a wedding booked for that afternoon, and our prayers began. If you have never dealt with a military homecoming, it's hard to understand all that goes into it. For security reasons, all info related to it is kept very secure. Usually the date is released to the families, with a +/-1 day attached to it. The time is kept very secret up until a few days ahead of time. In order to be able to shoot the homecoming and still make the wedding, I needed to be out of MCAS Miramar by 1:30 Pm. 3 days before homecoming we received the word that Adam would be home at 12:30 - if everything went according to plan. On the way down there that day (remember, I was driving from Menifee) there was a fatality accident that had the freeway completely shut down 2 exits above the base. As luck would have it, I found back-roads and arrived there around 1130, just in time to witness the countdown and building excitement.

By some miracle, and a lot of prayers, 4 Chinook Helos and 10 Osprey began flying over us at exactly 12:30 and landed shortly after that.

About 20 minutes later, Adam got to see his beautiful wife and little monkey for the first time in about 7 months.

To participate in such a momentous occasion and be trusted to capture it is such a huge honor. And to do it so closely to the 15th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks made it that much more meaningful and humbling. (Side-note - Adam's choice to serve our country was greatly inspired by that tragic day). Homecoming is one of those things that if you haven't personally experienced it, it's really hard to truly understand the range of emotions you feel. From a removed standpoint, you can logically understand it and get it, but you can't really truly understand the depth and rawness you feel. My goal in taking these pictures was not only to provide Chris, Adam, and little Lani Kai some great family pictures, but to also give them pictures to look back on and remember just how excited they felt to see each other again. I think when you look at these, you can see the strength of their love and marriage.

Welcome home Adam, to you and all your fellow Marines. Thank you for your service, and thank you to Christine, Lani Kai, and all the other families that sacrifice to keep us safe.

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