Barhite: OpLove captures emotional moments for military familiesWritten by Brandi Barhite | Community Ombudsman | firstname.lastname@example.org
I met Ohioan Stephanie Strickfaden in December. The soon-to-be-Texan was overweight and missing her husband, Chad, who was deployed in Afghanistan.
Through Operation Love Reunited, the new Strickfaden has been revealed to her husband.
“With my husband deployed this year, we were unable to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Mail has been ordered to stop so I couldn’t send him anything. This became the perfect opportunity to take advantage of OpLove,” Strickfaden said.
Strickfaden normally doesn’t like to be photographed, but her OpLove photographer, Karen Menyhart, made her feel comfortable.
“She gave my husband and I an unforgettable gift and at her own expense. It was a wonderful experience,” Strickfaden said.
OpLove is a nonprofit that offers free professional photography sessions to military families. Menyhart got involved in OpLove because she was looking for a way to give back as a photographer. She applied and was accepted. Normally, OpLove photographers send the photos overseas, but the timing of this photo session and the no-mail order made an online gallery better for Chad.
Each participating family or member may receive two sessions per year, according to the OpLove website. The session choices are pre-deployment, saying goodbye, already deployed and homecoming. The photographer donates all services (shooting, editing, the album and postage).
Menyhart will be doing a homecoming shoot in 2014. Those are special because family members sometimes forget to take pictures when they are wrapped up in their emotions, she said. OpLove photographers can capture the homecoming as it unfolds.
“It is really cool. I am excited to do it. It is a nice, neat way to give back,” Menyhart said.
Since OpLove was founded in 2006, there have been 10,000 clients in the United States, she said.
“We do have photographers in every state, except a couple New England states, but we have nearby photographers that travel to cover those few,” she wrote in an email.