26 May 2010

Pimping out homecomings.

I got to thinking... and my thinking got me to formulating a blog post, and this post will likely ruffle some feathers, so my thinking might get me in a spot of trouble. That being said, please don't be offended dear readers! I'm not speaking specifically to anyone and I'm really just trying to explore this topic and how we share and what we share and where the lines in the sand are for each of us.

So, Pioneer Woman is doing one of her photography assignments, which I love even though she never picks mine (but she did pick one of Brits!). Apparently the 'happiness' assignment last week garnered a ton of military homecoming posts, so this week's assignment is coming home. Specifically, the military kind (though near as I can tell other non-military permutations of the theme are allowed). And oh, are there submissions. Like coming out of the woodwork. (Sort of made me feel like we were a much bigger community than we really are! Crazy!).

Now, even though I'm a MilSpouse and we just had a homecoming and I am a total photography junkie... I don't have a submission to send in. Are you shocked? Well, I will tell you why. First- practicality. I didn't know anyone when I PCS'd down here so when Swiss came home shortly thereafter I didn't have anyone to come with me to photograph it- his family didn't come down either, so I was flying solo. Second- weather. It was raining and cold and crappy and muddy and the whole shin-dig was outside. This doth not a pretty scene make. Thirdly- and most importantly (to me)- privacy. Plain and simple, that was an epic moment between Swiss and I that I just couldn't bear to share with anyone else, let alone strangers.

See, I'm VERY protective of that moment. That was the culmination of a suck-tastic year... so much time apart, so much heartache and difficulties, so much worry and fear and the emotional roller coaster... that homecoming ceremony, that moment when we were reunited was something precious we both earned with sweat, tears and 365 days/ 7,000 miles of distance. I sort of feel like sharing that moment with anyone is letting them get all the good of a deployment (at least the feel-good buzz and warm fuzzy feeling) without putting in any of the work. I know that might seem ridiculous to many of you, but there it is. That was, and always will be, OUR moment. Not for public consumption. Not for pimping. Not for awards. Not for blog comments. Not to make anyone else feel good. Not to drive home some point about these wars. Ours. Alone. Because we earned it.

Is that 84 shades of over-dramatic? Some might think so... and of course y'all are entitled to that, without a doubt. But there is just something about seeing all these photos pouring into the blog-o-sphere that makes me cringe. Sure, they are touching and emotional and offer a window into our lifestyle that many don't get to see. But maybe that is the issue. They don't get to see the nights waiting by the phone, feverishly checking e-mails, they don't get to see the panic when a dark sedan rolls past the house a little too slowly for comfort, or the fear when there is a knock at the door. They don't get to see the nights you lay awake crying because all you want in this whole world is just to feel him close again, smell him, hold him. They don't get to watch us struggle with managing an entire household, a family alone. Nor do they get to watch us feverishly put together care packages and write letters because it is all you can do and you just have to stay busy or it will consume you. They don't see the lonely nights alone, the missed holidays, the spectacular crashes so many of us feel after R&Rs. They don't see all the things that go into that homecoming. They are spectacular because of the year that preceded them and all that the couple endured, together. They are spectacular because they aren't superfluous, there is weight and meaning behind them, they are spectacular because they were hard-fought, they were earned.

Have you noticed that we don't share the crappy stuff (except with each other)? When strangers ask, "How do you do it?" we always reply, with a shrug and some easy, practiced comment about how we just do. We rarely ask for help during deployments... we bear that burden -mostly- alone. Camera crews don't show up to document how hard deployments are on families and no one orders a photo shoot to capture just how sucky that time was. (Can you just imagine? A photographic reminder of all the sad, lonely nights on the couch with the dog and a glass- or 3- of wine? DEPRESSING!) Why won't we let the public see the crappy stuff, but when they ask for the glorious, hard-earned, emotional, intensely personal homecoming p0rn, we send the photos flying out the door faster than you can say "Cheese!"?

Is it pride? Is it some sort of statement- political or otherwise? Is it just about sharing? Or... is it the attention? The blog numbers bump? The publicity? (Gaw, I'm so cynical!) What is it that makes so many of us share these intensely personal moments, in great detail, with perfect strangers and non-military folks? Just looking at the photos on the flickr page makes me feel a little pervy and like a Peeping Tom. Knowing how I feel about our homecoming, seeing photos of other's out there leaves me feeling a little dirty, like I saw something I shouldn't have been privy to. Yet, there they are, on tremendously public sites like flickr or the Pioneer Woman... willingly, enthusiastically put our there for anyone and everyone to see. Like its no big deal. Its almost as if the MilSpouses of the world took this 'recognition' from a civilian blogger and were so wanting to be included and made to feel special that they couldn't toss those personal moments into the ring fast enough. I'm certain that isn't the case for all of them, but I'd be willing to bet its the case for many.

I am sure I offended some of you, and that wasn't my intention at all. We are, obviously, all free to do whatever we choose and we are allowed to disagree. I'm mostly just trying to understand the whys and wherefores behind sharing these moments. What is it about sharing these photographs that makes you want to do it? What do you get out of it? Are there any of you who have shared them and wished they hadn't - or vice versa? How do you feel when you see other's photos of homecomings? I'm tremendously interested in how people choose to share and what they choose to share- it is always a fine line- especially for us bloggers and Facebook users. So, please, tell me what you think about all of this, even if you think I'm nuts!!!


Mrs. G.I. Joe said...

I completely understand what you are saying about the privacy stuff. And yeah, when people use homecomings and stuff for attention/blog numbers I just roll my eyes. It doesn't bother me but I think "Really? THIS is what you focus on? Numbers???"

The big thing that gets me with homecoming pics is when a company name and number appears on a sign or name tag isn't edited out. That's dangerous.

I saw the contest Pioneer Woman is holding and was honestly shocked (and embarrassed) by comments on her last contest. Some milspouses (or just military family members maybe) were acting a little butt-hurt that a military photo didn't win that one. Sigh. I love my military life and fully believe there is a lot of beauty in it. But I am pretty sure others outside the military can experience happyness too. :P

Tucker said...

Great point Mrs. GI Joe! I didn't read the comments about the last assignment and I'm honestly a bit ashamed that some MilFolk got their undies in a bundle because a military photo didn't win. GROW UP! Like you said, non-MilFolks are pretty good at happiness too!

And Thank You for bringing up the OpSec angle too! I totally forgot that in my thought-process and that is a SUPER important point. Right now, over at Flickr, all sorts of skeevy folks are going to be ID-ing families and troops and units because most of those photos aren't edited for OpSec. Not cool.

Thanks for the great comment and for stopping by! :)

TheAlbrechtSquad said...

I can see why you would feel that way however, I am the girl who attended over a dozen homecomings to capture that moment for many of my friends.

In the past, we never did, during our early deployments, we hardly took pics of anything (maybe too much OPSEC/PERSEC ingrained into both my husband and I).

After my best friend's husband was killed in Iraq, I spent hours with her going through pictures. It made me realize I didn't take enough pictures of me and my husband and different aspects of our life.

I want to leave a legacy for my kids, so I journal and take pics. I do share the pics on my blog and on FB because we have a lot of extended family and friends who support us through each chapter of our life and they want to see the ending of different journeys. I've been asked.

I don't blog for a million followers, I blog for me, my friends and my family, if others stumble on my blog then great, they get to see the good, the bad and the ugly.

Believe it or not I am selective about the pics I choose to share. I think it's a personal choice and I do believe it's an intimate moment as you stated (trust me there were times I was snapping pics for friends where I totally felt like I was invading), their gratitude for the captured moment trumps it all.

And I agree with Mrs. GI Joe, those butt hurt wives need to get over themselves.

rachel elizabeth said...

Yikes. This post sort of makes me want to crawl into a hole now. My husband just returned from his deployment and I posted the pictures and the story on my blog. Did I do this for comments? Absolutely not. I posted my post because I felt like the people that read my blog went on this journey with me. I received so much encouragement and kindness from the readers of my blog through this whole deployment, and I felt like they deserved to be happy, they deserved to get that look into such a private moment.

Originally when I was set to pick him up at the airport (he had to be transported back civilian due to being at the hospital in Landstuhl for over a week), I wanted it to be just me. No one else went to sleep every night alone, no one else earned this. This was ours. But, family ended up insisting, and it wasn't that bad.

The family that was there ended up taking a LOT of pictures that day and i'm really thankful that I have them. It's something that i'm going to be proud to show my kids someday, i loved being able to show the pictures to my 90 year old grandmother who couldn't be there with us. While we the wives bear the brunt of the deployment suffering, we're not the only ones that it's hard on.

I guess I can see both sides of the argument. Some people are just more private than others, some people just see these moments so differently.

Tucker said...

Aww, Rachel, I don't want you to crawl into a hole! I totally understand having the photos and wanting to share with family and having them for keepsakes (which The Albrecht Squad brought up too). And if someone would have been there to photograph it for us, I would treat our photos just as you both mentioned- keepsakes. And I do get wanting to share them with your blog readers- you made a great point about your readers being on the journey with you and this is sort of their reward. That makes perfect sense, really!

I think my issue is more with sharing them with perfect strangers? Folks who haven't been on the journey with you or who haven't been on the journey themselves. I think those are the ones that make my skin crawl, those are the ones that seem all about the publicity or attention.

But thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts! I'm really glad you did!!!

rachel elizabeth said...

I agree about the strangers thing too, but i'd be like that about ANY picture of me and my family. It's creepy and voyeuristic and just not really necessary.

Kelli said...

Very well put!! I don't think most people think of it in that way. I think most of them, like you said, want to be able to say, look we made it, we survived, and brag on those happy moments, not allowing anyone to see the DARK side. We haven't experienced deployment yet, we are still so new to all this. I think the last thing I would be worried about is a camera when my man comes home though!!! I want all of him to myself, no flashes included!! I think the only exception will be photos for the kids and their reunion with Daddy, sort of to help them remember it when they are a little older. Great post though!! Got my wheels turning =)

Post Tenebras Lux said...

Hmmmm. . . . Good thinking.

I wish I had better pictures of our reunions. I wish it had been feasible to have someone there who was really experienced "capturing the moment," for that reason. I want them so I can look back at them and remember, just like I want all my family pictures.

As to posting them on my blog--I posted our homecoming pic on my blog for the same reason I posted *anything* on my blog during the last deployment. I mean, why do we blog, allowing whoever wanders in off the internet to read about our lives. I don't know you =). The reasons I blog are mixed, as are my reasons for everything I do, probably. I've got to admit, I do like numbers for my blog, comments, etc. I don't think I blog *just* for that, though. (Does anyone?? Really?) I'm keeping a record for myself as well as others.

Nothing real coherent here, just a few thoughts. . . .