I rolled over and realized I had actually slept some the night before. However, it was only about 4 am. I didn’t care. Today was THE day and I figured if I got up and started getting ready, I would have enough time to do what I needed to do before the boys woke up. I plugged in the curlers and I got dressed into the outfit that had been hanging in my closet for about two months. It was just a red sweater and some jeans. I had also bought some new jewelry to go with it. I put the rollers in my hair and tried to eat a little breakfast.
I walked in the boy’s room and my oldest said to me, “Is today the day? Do we have to go to school today?” I had told him earlier that most likely Daddy was coming home on Tuesday and if this were true they would not have to go to school. I also told them that things could change so we wouldn’t know for sure until that morning. Somehow nothing changed from the 14 days call we got about the timing of the welcome home. I thought the date was neat because on December 17, 2006, my husband came back from Iraq for R&R and met his 2nd little boy for the first time. And here we were, 7 years later, getting ready to pick up Daddy from his very last deployment ever.
We have some friends who were going to come with me to help with the boys. I also had another friend coming to take photos. We left the house at about 7am and made our way to Ft. Campbell to find the buses. When we pulled into the parking lot and I could see the other wives, moms and family members it started to feel very real. This was it. The Homecoming. The day everyone who has ever had a deployed spouse has been waiting for.
We got out of the car and made our way to the bus. I knew the boys would be fine with it and think it was fun. The bus ride to the hangar didn’t take very long either. We got out and walked inside. We were greeted by a nice man who told us that there were a lot of snacks and drinks that we could have if we got hungry. The hanger was starting to fill up with people. I noticed quite a lot of Moms and Dads and knew they were waiting for their sons to come home. I saw wives and wives with little babies but not too many wives with older children.
We decided to go hang out in the kids room which was nice. At that time we were not sure how much longer we would have. Time passed, we chatted and let the kids play. We went outside for a bit but it was really too cold to just hang out there. We went back inside and took some “waiting” photos.
Before we knew it they told us to go outside as the plane would be landing soon. Everyone was outside holding signs and just waiting to see the plane. Then my friend said, “I saw it, over there, behind the building.”
By this point you KNOW your soldier is coming home but there is just something about seeing the actual plane that makes you feel like it is really true. Just seeing it land right in front of you is amazing. The plane landed, we all cheered and watched it turn around and try to connect with the stairs. It did and after what seemed like forever, the doors opened and soldiers started coming out. They were pretty far away but I noticed that the fourth guy in walked like my husband. He was the right height too. My friend who was taking photos was able to get a closer picture and it was him! So exciting for us! Once we knew it was him we ran to the other side of the waiting area to see him walk by.
After that we went back inside to find a seat. As we did this we noticed that we could see Ben through the small opening. That was pretty sweet. Before we knew it the men walked in. They have to be very serious when they do this. The rest was pretty much a blur as I was just waiting for them to release everyone. I had told my friend that I wanted to go to Ben first and then the kids could follow me. Once they gave the ok, I sprinted as fast as I could into Ben’s arms. I actually jumped into his arms which I had never done before. It was over…finally. The last 6.5 months were over and he was finally in my arms again. The boys followed me and finally got to be back with their Daddy.
It felt like such a very long road for us. This deployment was something else but now I can finally say that it IS a part of our past and is no longer our normal.