Homecomings. In the civilian world they mean high school football games, gowns, corsages, tuxes, balloons and perhaps dances. However, in the military, the term homecoming takes on a whole new meaning. They are what every spouse and family member dreams of while their loved ones are away. It is the day that reunites a family after a long, and in some occasions, emotional deployment.
A couple of months ago, I was given the opportunity to witness my first homecoming as the rest of my husband’s unit came home from Afghanistan. And being a newlywed, completely new to the military in general, I had only seen homecomings on T.V. or through others uploads onto YouTube. You know, those shaky videos where the camera follows a woman frantically trying to reach her husband, barreling through a crowd and jumping into his arms while whaling in excitement? Yea, those overwhelming videos. But witnessing it in person, I really didn’t know what to expect. All I knew was I felt overjoyed to be a part of it all.
I decided to be of some assistance and to help a friend with documenting the night. I was asked to video tape all the wives as they welcomed home their husbands. As I fumbled with the camera a bit – turning it on and off and becoming familiar with the zoom button – I noticed how simple of a gadget it was. But even though the device seemed simple, I couldn’t help but feel how complex capturing each heartfelt moment might be. I began to feel a little anxious, but was sure my stress didn’t even compare to those who were waiting to hold their loved one once again.
As with any nerve racking moment, the waiting was the worst part. But once the plane landed, and everyone was cheering while holding up “welcome home” signs, it really made my heart skip a beat. My husband was also there with me to welcome home his Marines. This made sharing that moment with him quite unique, and special.
I began fighting for a position closer toward the gates where their husbands were being released. I was trampled (understandably) as everyone was scrambling and jumping into their husbands arms. It was an amazing sight. I frantically started filming all the kissing and embracing; the smiling and the laughing that they had been yearning for so long. It was touching.
I met each husband and welcomed them home. And just like that, the evening was done. It is so odd that a moment that is built up for 6 to 8 months can end so quickly. Yet, it is the most moving thing anyone could ever witness. I was thankful to be a part of it.
As my husband and I headed for our car, hand in hand, I looked up at him and couldn’t help but try and put us in their situation. But I can’t imagine being without him for that long. I can’t imagine someone waiting with me and videotaping me, as I did with them. I just don’t see it. The thing is, however, that it will be me sooner or later.
I will be that wife shivering. Not because I have picked out a cute dress and I am determined not to cover it with jacket, but because the raw emotions that are traveling through my body can’t hold me still. I will be that wife that gets all dolled up to wait hours and hours, just to cry away all the make-up that was so meticulously put on earlier. I will be that wife that pushes and shoves; jumps and screams when I see my husband for the first time in 6 or 8 months. I will be that wife that embraces my husband while everyone else around us welcomes him home. That will be me eventually. Although I CAN wait to live without him for 6 to 8 months, I can’t wait to feel the joy those women felt that night.