Hopefully, this will be our first, last, and only deployment, and therefore our first, last, and only military homecoming ceremony. I tried not to have pre-set notions of what the day would entail, and tried to have a laid-back attitude about the whole affair. True to form, the Army had different plans, and my laid-back attitude was challenged at every interval.
We were lucky in that our homecoming was only delayed a couple times, and only by 36 hours. Our Friday night arrival became Saturday morning, then Sunday middle of the night, then Sunday morning. Sunday, Feb. 9, at 3:30 a.m., I got the kids up, bundled, and into the car and made our way to post.
Note: Not many people coming on to post at 3:30 in the morning.
Our arrival was set for 0600, and the suggestion by the unit was that you arrive at least two hours early. With nightmarish thoughts of my husband arriving early and us not being there to greet him, I dutifully complied.
I parked and unloaded children, stroller, supplies, snacks, and then boarded the bus that would take us to the airplane hanger where maybe, in two or three hours, we would get our Soldier back.
Bathroom issues with my oldest were a recurring theme of our deployment adventures, and the early wake-up and deviation from routine was no match for the tummy monster. We spent a good bit of time running back and forth from our seats to the “potty.”
Since it was early February, I assumed it would be cold in the airplane hanger where the homecoming ceremony was to take place and dressed us all accordingly. Of course, the hanger was more than comfortable, and there was lots of running — to the bathroom, to find a missing toddler. You may call it sweating, I call it glowing in anticipation.
We got to watch the plane carrying our Soldiers come in. Well, WE didn’t, because we were in the potty dealing with the aforementioned intestinal issues, but we could hear the roar of the plane landing and made a bee-line to the flight line in time for the three-year-old to see Daddy pass by and wave.
If you’ve never been to a homecoming ceremony, I highly recommend it. Sure, the surprise homecoming videos online are great and all. But watching a group of Soldiers march in formation in to a screaming crowd of loved ones in various states of insanity? Priceless.
There were a couple of short speeches. “Good job!” was the most consistent refrain. But then, in more of a whisper than a shout, those words come: “Fall out.”
Mass chaos. We couldn’t find each other for approximately eighty years. (Or maybe it was two minutes. Same difference.) Hugs, kisses. A wonderful photo courtesy a local paper.
And then the Army took them back again. They turn in weapons, fill out paperwork, promise to come back tomorrow, etc. etc.
We packed up the car with three bags, two kids, one Soldier and one hot mess. We went home, showed off all the decor changes (the new velvet Elvis painting being a key addition), and headed out for lunch.
That’s when my oldest finally gathered the courage to ask a question that had clearly been weighing on her mind.
“Are you my same daddy?” She asked it not with sadness, but with excitement — she knew the answer was yes, but just needed to make sure.
“Yeah, I’m your same daddy,” he said, holding her hand. He looked up at me, and I couldn’t help but think, here’s hoping.
Josie Beets is an attorney, military spouse, and mom. Follow her on Twitter @JosieBeets.