Tuesday, September 13, 2011
Earlier, I wrote about the excitement of a military homecoming in this post. It is truly one of the greatest things about being a military wife - in my opinion. Before John even left, I started thinking about him coming home. Really, it is what sustains you on the hardest days. In John's time in the AF, we've had several different types of homecomings. His first deployment happened to be over the time of September 11th. He returned from a 3 month trip about 6 weeks after those terrible events. The homecoming was very emotional and patriotic as you might imagine. His group returned on military planes to the base where we were stationed. It seemed as if everyone from the local area was out to meet these soldiers. Red, white, and blue were everywhere - it was truly like a scene from a movie. At the end of John's second deployment, he flew home with his squadron, but they came in to a commercial airport and then had to ride a bus 45 minutes back to our base. WHAT!?!? I know, I thought the same thing. Yes, I drove to the airport so that I could see him the second he got off of that airplane and then I followed the bus back to the base. By this time, deployments were the norm and there wasn't much excitement surrounding their return. On John's third deployment, he got called back early so that he could leave for another trip - ugh! Will, who was 6 months old, and I drove to the airport to greet John. No one even knew he was returning from a deployment because he was in civilian clothes. We were also in a pretty big hurry, because after several flight delays, John made it home just in time to repack and leave again (from a different airport!) in 8 hours.
Fast forward 6 1/2 years to this summer. I was thrilled to learn that the guys would be returning to the base and that we'd get to go out on the flight line to meet them - I just can't even put into words how exciting it is. Will and Kate, worked on their welcome home posters and ate their last hershey kiss on Thursday night and then tried to go to sleep. Kate, of course, had heard "Daddy's coming home soon" so many times that she would reply to me "No, daddy's on a trip" - so she didn't have much trouble sleeping. Will knew full well what it meant and got out of bed at least 11 times before he finally gave it up and fell asleep. Me, well, the last time I looked at the clock it was 3:14 am. We all jumped right up at 7:00 and were ready to hit the road and get our daddy. Only one problem, he wasn't going to be there until about 4:30pm. Surely you have never told your small children about something that is going to happen and then had to answer questions for 8 hours until it actually happens. Oh. my. goodness. Thankfully, they were both entertained by the movie Rio (thanks Mimi!) on our 2 1/2 hour drive to meet John. I was nervous and excited. Of course, I couldn't wait to hug John, to know that he was back safe and sound and to hand the matters of our household back over to him :o) ... more on that tomorrow! But, I just couldn't wait to see the reunion between John, Will, and Kate. We got to the base about an hour before John was supposed to arrive. The kind ladies who were in charge of the event had snacks and toys, but the best thing was a giant screen with a flight tracker tracking John's plane. Will was almost silent as he watched the plane slowly blink closer. Kate was intrigued but I was thankful for the toys! Finally they announced it was time for us to get on a bus to go out to the flight line. As we sat with a bus full of people we didn't know - wives, husbands, parents, and children - hardly a word was spoken. Then the plane came into sight and ever so slowly descended until the wheels FINALLY touched the ground - a cheer erupted and it no longer mattered that we didn't know each other, we each knew someone on that plane. Once we saw the plane, Kate understood that her daddy was on it and we could hardly hold her back. We staked out our place near the steps of the plane and waited to see our daddy. John was one of the last guys off of the plane. It felt like a moment frozen in time. It was really him, he was really back, and he was really going home with us. Kate shrieked, "My daddy, it's my daddy!" over and over again. As soon as his feet stepped off of the last step, she ran to him, no longer able to contain her sweet 2 year old self. Will looked up and said "Can I run?". Of course, I said. For me, it was enough to stand back for a few seconds and watch as John shook hands with a line of his fellow soldiers, with Will and Kate glued to his side. At long last, I got my hug. It was more of a family hug and it was the best hug I've ever had. In the middle of it, Will looked up and said, "I think I feel like crying." Me too, buddy ... tears of relief, true love, and pure joy.