Houston-based company hosts first free photo shoot for local veterans

November is National Veterans and Military Families Month, a reminder to honor our service members beyond Veterans Day. One local photographer is celebrating the military in an unforgettable way.

One session after the next, 60 people showed up for Woodallen Media's first free photo shoot for local veterans.

“We really captured them in some great moments and the vibe was just very, very positive,” says the owner Richard Ruiz.

The Houston-based company was started by former marine Alan 'Woody' Woodallen in 1946. For 15 years, company photographers would travel to Fort Hood, Texas to snap hundreds of veterans every Veterans Day.

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Instead of running the event this year during COVID-19, the current owner captured military families right here at home.

“The pictures were awesome!” says Erika Guidry, the daughter of army veteran Cliffic A. Guidry. She was able to bring her 83-year old dad, and his brother Wilbert Guidry, who also served.

“It was a nice opportunity to see everybody because it’s been a while,” she says. “For dad to be able to see his brothers and sisters and be able to talk to them again in person, was an awesome opportunity.”

For John Harris, who served in Germany and in Desert Storm, the photo shoot was a much-needed break from quarantine.

“I've been through some horrible things. But I think this is probably the worst, not being able to really be around family,” says Harris. “We managed to get out of the house; it’s just hard being cooped up.”

Veterans were able to get a package with headshots for job hunts, along with the family photos.

David Irvin, who was bombed and injured in Desert Storm, says it's a reminder to celebrate their sacrifices beyond Veterans Day.

“Don't forget the people that put their life on the line for this country,” says Irvin. “There’s veterans out here that need love and care, and never forget them because they haven’t forgotten you.”

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“We had some great conversations,” adds Ruiz.

“One conversation I had enlightened me: when you're at a football game and they asked veterans to stand up, not all of them want to stand up because it brings back pretty tragic memories… they kind of want to just move forward,” he explains.

He says the studio will continue the Houston sessions every year, offering a way for veterans to look to the future and celebrate the present moment with the ones they love.