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Three photographers clad in black smiled and held out a colorful ball to Eliza Richards, 2, to induce a smile. Her tiny arms were wrapped around her 5-month-old sister Anna, as their parents Kristen and Philip Richards looked on. The Richards were one of more than 300 families who received free portraits over the weekend, thanks to a project of the USO and the PhotoImaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association.
This year is the first time the nationwide program has come to Fort Hood, said Isabel Hubbard, Fort Hood USO programs manager.
“They’re all volunteering their time,” Hubbard said of the 15 photographers who traveled from Houston to take portraits Nov. 23 and 24.
“It’s payback,” said volunteer Pete Romfh. “Ninety percent of us are vets ... you (served) for us, so we want to do it for you. I wouldn’t miss this chance to help.”
The Grose family appreciated the opportunity to take their first professional family photo in three years.
“We’re excited,” Barbara Grose said. “We can’t afford to get (them) done.”
Her family of six, including three sons and a daughter ranging in age from 4 to 13, were in the Christmas spirit Sunday as they waited for their personal photo shoot.
“It’s pretty cool,” said Spc. Philip Richards, 1st Cavalry Division, of the free portraits. “We appreciate the support.”
The Richards take family photos occasionally, but this year is their first as a family of four.
“I remember being in the service, how lonely it can be,” said Alan Montgomery, the event’s organizer. “This is the best we can do for what they do for us — they’re making sacrifices.”
The photographers are a part of the Houston Innerloop Photo Club.
Following the photo session, the group will retouch each family’s best photo and send it to the family along with the rest of the photos on a CD.
“Working with the USO is a blessing,” Montgomery said, praising the group’s enthusiasm. “They’re doing it out of love.”
He estimated their services would run $500 in a studio setting. The group hopes to expand the program next year and photograph even more families.
“(The photographers) want to show the military at Fort Hood that they want to support them,” Hubbard said.