Free pictures keep military families connected

GULFPORT, MS (WLOX) - Military families separated during the Christmas season had a reason to smile today. More than 100 active duty service men and women and their families took free photos in Gulfport Saturday as part of the Portraits of Love Project.

The event was a partnership between the USO and the Photo-imaging Manufacturers and Distributors Association (PMDA). Members are professional photographers who volunteer their time to take pictures of military families. Airman Ezekiel Pettway said it is nice to know the community is behind our military.

"It's kind of a warm feeling and it makes everyone feel good that the community is out supporting us," said Pettway.

"The USO is out supporting us and realizing that they appreciate what we do and we appreciate them doing this for us."

Director of the USO Felice Gillum said this is an important project because it helps keep soldiers who are deployed all over the world stay linked to their families.

"During the holiday time, a lot of people are geographically separated from their families and this just really gives them the opportunity to bridge that gap by providing the photos that they can send to their loved ones that are deployed overseas," said Gillum.

Volunteer Rick Garrity said this program especially touches home for him. He started volunteering when his son, who is a Marine, was deployed overseas.

"I started volunteering for the program when my son was deployed in Afghanistan," said Garrity.

"He's a combat Marine. We've been doing Fort Drum and Gulfport. This is our third year. It's just great to take photos and make people smile."

The photo sessions will continue tomorrow in Gulfport.

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