Thursday, September 27, 2012


Well, here we are again. The end of another deployment. This has been the hardest of our three, hands down. I've been ready for it to be over since before it started, and I am thrilled that it is finally time for me to be writing this! I am not entirely sure why this one was harder. Everyone keeps saying that it is because I have two little ones now, but I am 100% sure that isn't it. The boys kept me sane this deployment. I think part of it was having two so very close together! Two deployments in an 18 month period is no joke. Part of it was also probably knowing that I could have very easily been home, but stayed because I was too worried about what people would say. My mistake. Won't make that again, you can be sure. 

I'm not going to dwell on it though. Because it is over and my baby is coming home!!!

On the outside looking in, homecomings would seem like they are nothing but joyous occasions. Please don't get me wrong, they are. Absolutely. But I have talked to enough wives to know that I am not alone in having a certain amount of anxiety at the thought of the approaching reunion. I never would have believed it before experiencing it myself. After all, military homecomings are the things of an amazing TV special. Banners and cheering and relief and tears...and they really are all those things too! More emotion than I can sum up in simple words. I swear to you, I can actually feel my heart swell with pride when I watch that plane coming in for its landing. It starts beating a patriotic beat as I watch the plane taxi around and finally come to a stop, so close yet still so far away. It takes much longer than it ever should between the time that plane stops and the time the doors open, but in that time my heartbeat never comes back down to a normal patter and it reaches an unbelievable level of joy that erupts when the doors open and men and women in uniform start filing out to reunite with their loved ones. It doesn't seem possible that a person could actually live through those levels of excitement and suspense, but you somehow do, and then join everyone else as they search for their special people in that sea of smiling faces and excitement so thick you can actually taste it!

Sometimes you find them quite quickly, and sometimes it takes a little longer, but eventually your eyes will meet through a forest of camo and welcome home signs. And, for me at least, that is when the shyness kicks in. Yes, I have known him for years, more than I wish to share here, because it makes me feel old, but we have also both grown and changed over the many months he was gone. At the core, we are those people who said goodbye many moons ago, but some things have changed, and getting to know those parts of my husband are what makes me shy.

Still, there is something electric about your eyes meeting for the first time. They hold yours for a fleeting moment (though so much passes between you in that moment that it would take several blogs, and probably books, to express it) before they look away, searching for the little beings they missed most in all that time they were away. What, you thought it was you they most wanted to see? No. They missed you, they want to hold you again, but there is an even more pressing issue on their minds. A body they long to hold more than even yours...and it's OK, because you would feel the same way if you had missed out on half of your child's life too.

If they have any fears about homecomings, it is for these moments. A fear that is deep and dark and shared by so many of our men and women in uniform when they arrive stateside once more...What if their children don't know them? What if they are scared? What if they don't want anything to do with them? So, they approach with caution, even though you can see the excitement and joy radiating off their faces as they take in every part of the children they left behind. They crouch down, sometimes several feet away, waiting to be approached by cautious little ones, even though you can see their longing to scoop up that little body and shower it with all the kisses they couldn't give in those months away. They talk and smile encouragement, sometimes with offerings of stuffed animals or toys picked up at some airport gift shop for way too much money, until their child comes up to them again and reaches out, and then the most amazing moment of homecomings gets to happen. Nothing, nothing at all can describe the reunion of child and parent. It is cautious and sweet and pure and filled with more joy than most moments can hold on their own. They fit into their parents arms, in that special spot meant just for them, and you can literally see months of tension, fear, stress, and war melt away into the sky as their parent folds around them in a perfect fit, often burying their face in their hair or neck to hide tears or to breath them in or both. It is pure beauty.

And then, finally, it is the spouses turn. And, as shy as I am, as strange as it is to feel those arms around me again, it is also safe and familiar and perfect. I can always smell a mixture of strange lands that I will never see, and the scent that is 100% unique to him. I love that. Is it odd to feel grown up arms again? To hold onto someone taller and stronger than me? Yes. Do I know that we have some adjustment ahead of us as we all redefine our rolls as a family? Of course...but for a moment none of that matters at all. Because he is home. 

Happy occasions? Joyous occasions? Oh, homecomings are so much more than that. But they are also hard and, for me, bittersweet.

It is hard to know that while I hold onto my husband, preparing myself for the next several weeks of getting to know one another under the same roof again, as hard as that might be sometimes, there is another husband or wife out there somewhere who would give everything they own for that chance. That there is an urn on their mantle or a folded flag in their holiday pictures where Daddy or Mommy should be. It's hard to accept that those men and women made that sacrifice for all of us back here in the States. Many of them made that sacrifice so that their brothers and sisters in uniform could go home in their stead. I don't know how to say thank you for something like that. And it is impossible to comprehend that my own husband might be asked to make that sacrifice one day. If any of us thought like that on a regular basis, I don't think we could get by.

This time, however, he is home safe. This time, God returned him to me whole. So I concentrate on that, and add it to the list of things I whisper my thanks for as I hold him that first time after he gets off the plane. He is home, and we are a family again.  

Thank you, Lord. Thank you for giving me the strength to get through this once again. Thank you for giving my my sons, without whom I could never get through a day. Thank you for delivering him home to my arms again. Keep us together, safe, and whole for as long as you can, please Lord. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Amen.