Military homecomings: It's not always like what you see on TV
Before I became a military wife I only knew about the homecomings I had seen in war movies. You know, the typical scene where said guy comes home from war to the unsuspecting wife while she is doing some typical household chore. The wife turns around and locks eyes with her returning hero, they embrace and all is perfect.
I wanted so badly to believe when it was my husband’s time to return home (from a 15-month deployment) that our eyes would meet, we'd embrace and our fairy tale would begin. I dreamed over the year he was gone of him coming home, having an unbelievably passionate encounter and snuggling in each other's arms all night. However, it didn’t quite begin that way.
Thanks to the advancement of technology, very rarely do our loved ones just show up at our door without warning anymore. Now through email and the FRG (Family Readiness Groups) we are kept abreast of when to expect them home and where on the military base we should meet them. Unfortunately technology is good and evil when it comes to the dilemma of waiting. We are lucky that with the click of a button we can view anticipated flight arrival times — but then the waiting game begins. I sat around for three days while my husband’s flight changed several times. I was grateful he was coming home but I couldn't help but being disappointed each time I got my hopes up.
Finally, on the day of his arrival, we sat in a hot hangar for two hours with screaming kids and irritated family members who, like me, had had enough and were ready for this supposed TV homecoming to happen.
The troops entered and for a brief second we had our moment. In a sea of faces and camo, I found my soldier. We hugged each other, the kids hugged him and then we waited for him to get the rest of his stuff — again more waiting!
Arriving home was awkward. My husband smiled as he looked at the various banners and yellow ribbons we had taped up because I couldn’t figure out how to get the staple gun to work.
As we entered the house, it truly hit me that he was seeing our home for the very first time because I had moved to a new house on base while he was deployed. A part of me felt bad that he was coming from a combat zone to another place that he had no part in making home.
Television would have you believe that we go home to a fairy tale and lay nestled in each other's arms for days. News programs forget to add in that the kids have to spend time with Daddy too, or the fact that Dad has traveled for days through several time zones and is jet lagged. Of course we see images of a new father holding his little one for the first time, but we don’t see the scenarios such as the children who have to get used to Dad being part of the parenting process again.
There isn’t a military spouse who can tell me that they don’t dream about the night their husband (or wife) returns home. You think of this beautiful, intimate night just like in the movies. No one tells you that in real life — for some couples — the first night back together is awkward. I hadn’t seen my husband in 15 months and now I had to jump back into my wifely duties as if life was routine. It took almost a week before we fell back into what felt normal.
After all is said and done, we quietly wonder if our spouse will have any aftereffects of being in a combat zone. We certainly enjoy our time together but a true homecoming isn’t only a happy ending. Television forgets to add in the “To be continued... ”.