Marines

Hearts Apart program provides free photos for deploying service members

3 May 2011 | Lance Cpl. Damany S. Coleman

Deployments can range from a few months or more than a year, anywhere from sunny, tropic scenes to harsh, hostile combat zones.

Regardless of the length or peril, deployments have proven to easily be one of the most difficult times for a service member and his family.

Through the efforts of dozens of photographers in communities across America, Hearts Apart, provides soon-to-be deployed troops photographs of their spouses and children at no cost.

These photographs are printed on waterproof, durable, bi-folded cards, which easily fit in a troops gear or uniform pockets.

Hearts Apart, founded in North Carolina, is a team that believes that military personnel need and deserve the memory of their families to carry them through the difficult times that lie ahead.

Brett Martin, executive director of Hearts Apart thought as a businessman, it was his responsibility to do something about it.

“I thought it was very important that businesses step up to the plate and do something for these men and women who not only protect our way of life and our economies, but our families too,” said Martin.

Martin said that he and the director of photography for Hearts Apart, Brownie Harris, came up with the idea for the program and wanted to focus on the military.

“These men and women are going off to war and we can give them something that their loves ones back stateside,” said Martin. “We’ve received pictures of service members who we have taken photos of here, standing guard or on duty looking at photos of their family, That encapsulates the reason behind what we’re doing – to connect those families while they’re apart.”

Martin added that deploying into harm’s way or simply being away from home for extended periods of time at all are be very difficult times for troops and their families.

“I think the rest of the non-military families forget how painful that can be,” said Martin.

The process is simple: an interested family can visit the Hearts Apart website and request photographs to be taken.

From there, the Hearts Apart team matches the family up with a photographer in their location around the country.

“We have photographers throughout the entire country and we match them up as quick as we can,” said Martin. “We encourage people to give us a little time … right before deployments. Unfortunately, with (the possibility) of a couple thousand (service members) being deployed, it’s hard to fill that need in a couple of days.”

Martin added that at least once a month, Hearts Apart adds photographers, all who volunteer their time until all requests are met.

“This time next year, we’ll be able to do more requests right before deployments and we’ll get better at what we do,” said Martin. “The families don’t spend anything for the photo shoots or reproductions of the photos – absolutely nothing. There is the photographer’s time, studio time, production time, the housing of the photos on different servers and even printing houses that donate their time. At the end of the day, there are quite a few people putting their assets to bear to make sure this happens. (The military) puts their lives on the line for us. It’s the least we can do.”

For more information about Hearts Apart, visit the website at heartsapart.org.