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Standing at the train station in San Luis Obispo, Ca. with camera in hand, I was reminded of an era long past – right out of the 50’s. No wonder San Luis Obispo was coined the happiest town in America. This is a place where people truly care and support each other. On this beautiful Central Coast day, people took time out of their day to welcome home a young soldier returning from the Iraq war. There were flags and signs held high by young and old. This was not about whether one was for or against this war. This was simply, when a soldier returns home, to honor a young man who put his life on the line.
Four organizations – American Legion Riders, Patriot Guard, Military Parents of the Central Coast and Welcome Home Troops – and family and friends gathered at the San Luis Obispo Train Station for a surprise welcome to Specialist 5, Daniel Donnahoo. After he stepped off the train, a very obviously surprised soldier was greeted with cheers, flags and hugs. Mom was first to reach him with an embrace that only a mother can give. Daniel saw his daughter, who is one year old, and has not seen since her birth. His wife, who is in the National Guard, was also there.
From a photographer’s standpoint, this was great shooting: emotions were high, excitement was in the air, and there was color everywhere from shiny motorcycles, to the banners, to the American flags, to the posters. I could not have asked for better shooting conditions. As far as outdoor photography tips, in this situation, have your camera ready to shoot fast as there is a lot happening at once. Stand back and get the crowd scenes and move in close and get the emotion of loved ones who have been separated for so long. I was shooting with a wide angle 24-105 and telephoto 70-200. I used Canon 5DmII and 7D.
After more hugs and media interviews, a motorcade of 45 motorcycles and many cars left the train station – mom and dad on a motorcycle, too — headed for Morro Bay. They picked up a police escort at Cuesta College, motorcaded through Morro Bay and then headed home to Atascadero, but not before picking up more vehicles and motorcycles when they stopped by VFW 2814. When the motorcade finally arrived in Atascadero, neighbors were there to greet him. Everyone enjoyed food, drink and celebration.
A truly small town with a huge heart… Welcome home, Daniel.