Update: The contest ends at 11:59 p.m. (E.T.) on Memorial Day, Monday, May 25. An eligible winner is chosen at random. View some of our favorite entries from this year in the gallery on this page.
Separation from loved ones is among the most difficult aspects of military life. Since the Civil War, photos have helped bridge the gap between those serving and those left behind.
These days, of course, Instagram makes that easier than ever.
That's why in celebration of National Military Appreciation Month this May, we're kicking off our second annual military community Instagram contest. And this year, a winner and a loved one will get something to bring them closer together.
The new Apple Watch promises to connect people in even more personal ways by allowing users to reach out and touch someone — much more literally than ever before — whether just across the base or on the other side of the planet.
As Apple puts it, the Watch's "Taptic Engine" enables "some entirely new, intimate ways for you to communicate with other Apple Watch wearers. You can get someone's attention with a gentle tap. Or even send something as personal as your heartbeat." And for those moments when you can't send a picture, you can draw one on the watch face while your loved one watches in real time.
To make those kinds of moments happen, this year's winner will get not just one, but two Apple Watches.
Five things you need to know to enter our #MilMonth Instagram Contest:
1. Who is eligible? Basically, anyone who's ever been part of the military community. Specifically, all current U.S. active-duty, National Guard and Reserve military personnel, military retirees, U.S. veterans, and dependents ages 13 and up at the time of entry.
2. How long? The contest runs for three weeks, starting on May 1 and ending on Memorial Day, May 25. We'll repost some of our favorites on social media and in our print editions. The winner will be chosen randomly.
3. Do this first. You can tag up to five of your favorite photos celebrating military life, service and family.
Be sure to mention @MilitaryTimes and use the hashtag #MilMonth.
You can tag older photos in your feed, but your newest shots will get better visibility.
Instagram's new hashtag filtering process — the order in which photos appear in a hashtag forum — now arranges shots in the order they were posted, not when they were tagged.
4. Do this second. Complete the entry form here. It's quick and easy, asking you to confirm your military ties, provide basic contact information and certify that you agree to the official rules. If you want a chance at winning the prize, you have to complete the form. A form is required for each entry (up to five).
5. Jazz 'em up. Let's see your best stuff. This is all about celebrating military life — from deployments and training to family life and off-duty adventures.
Instagram has some great filters and editing tools built into the app, but feel free to use any other editing apps to jazz up your shots for new posts. Snapseed, one of our favorite editing apps, recently updated with some powerful new tools that can help transform ho-hum shots into works of art.