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You hear the stories, watch the tv shows, and see the photos, but nothing prepares you for your very own homecoming. The weeks leading up to it are filled with anxiety, nervousness, and excitement. The days leading up to it are even worse. It took everything I had to keep busy. I filled my schedule up whenever I could and then it happened: his homecoming date changed. Again.
I was so very disappointed. Sure, I know it could happen. I had even expected it, but I had so hoped it would never happen. I was shocked at how many times the date and time changed. It was a huge roller coaster where I would be on the top and then a day later I would be on the bottom. I had cleared my entire schedule for that week and now I had a whole week of nothing while I waited for him to come home. I quickly worked to fill it up again with friends and appointments.
That whole week I realized I was not excited. I was just expecting it to change again. All I wanted to so is sit in my room and wait for the week to end, but I didn’t. Finally, as the next homecoming date got closer I started getting excited again. I realized this was going to really happen – my husband was really coming home! During this time I pictured what it was going to be like. Would everything be the same as before? Would homecoming be awkward or would I run to him not caring who was watching?
The last word I heard before my husband got on his plane was that he would be arriving in the U.S. early Sunday night. I was shocked because we were expecting Monday or Tuesday. I didn’t want to get my hopes up too much, but I was very excited. All day Sunday I was so antsy. I watched the clock waiting for the 8 pm to arrive -the time he told me he would arrive in Baltimore.
I finally got the phone call: he had arrived safely in the United States. I was so relieved. It was an incredible feeling. Now all he had to do was find a flight home that night. He told me he would call me back and let me know. I was so excited and was praying my heart out he could get a flight that night.
While I waited, I had to make a ton of phone calls. I had a photographer coming with me so I needed to let her know what was going on so she could get a sitter for her kids, I had to call the two babysitter back-ups I had to find out who could watch him and what was going on. I was going crazy waiting for him to call back. After about 40 minutes, he called and said the ticket counter was closed until morning there were no more flights out. I was really disappointed, but knew this could happen. One more night wouldn’t be too bad I told myself.
He told me the ticket counter opened at 4 am and he would be there to try to get the first flight out. I was still very excited. I had to call all the same people back, and finished making arrangements to call them in the morning when I knew what was going on. I made myself eat some dinner, and by that time I was so exhausted by the emotional roller coaster of everything that I went to bed.
5 am comes and I am woken up by a phone call. His flight leaves at 6:30 am. The flight takes the same time it takes to drive there which means I have exactly 30 minutes to get ready, dressed, and get my son over to the sitter’s house. It took me 45. Thankfully I had already showered the night before, and just had to do my hair and makeup. I packed my son’s stuff, woke him up and headed to my friend’s house where I gave her instructions for Adam and rushed out the door.
By this time I was running pretty late and was not even sure if I would make it to the airport on time to meet his flight. The photographer (who was meeting me at the airport) and I had decided to try to meet him at the gate. She knew how to get a special pass for military that allows us to go and meet our husbands there if they are coming back from a deployment. His flight was due in sometime after 8 am and it was going to be pretty close.
I was making some pretty awesome time getting to the airport- until I hit Atlanta. Sure it’s morning, but all the people who work in Atlanta are also trying to get into Atalanta. I was only a couple miles from the airport and hit some very bad traffic. I was going crazy. I had about 20 minutes to get through traffic, park, get a pass, and get to the gate. Finally after what seemed like forever I was able to get through the traffic.
I parked, ran into the airport (a little embarrassed about the stares I am getting because they are seeing a women in a dress and high heels running into the airport), and called my photographer. I couldn’t find her anywhere and she was not answering her phone. I think I called her about 12 times. Finally she called me back and told me that she didn’t think we could get passes to the gate. The line to get through security was a 35 minute wait. I was disappointed, but at this point his plane was going to be here anytime now so I didn’t care. I just wanted to see him.
We walked to the entrance we knew he and all the other passengers would be coming through to get to baggage claim and then the wait began. His flight was on time, but it looked like it was arriving a little later then we had thought. Plus I had to remind myself how long it takes to park the plane and for all the passengers to get off.
He didn’t have his phone, so I wasn’t sure if he would call me or not. Previously he had borrowed other people’s phones so he could give me a quick call to let me know what was going on. The waiting was killing me. I was so nervous, there was a couple times I thought I might throw up. I didn’t know when he was going to come up over that escalator so all I could do is keep watching and waiting.
I checked my phone several times, but I had somehow still missed a phone call. I knew Jon had borrowed a phone but I wasn’t sure if I should try calling that person back or just continue to wait. A few minutes later I get a phone call. It’s a man on the other end telling me that my husband asked him to tell me that he is on his way to baggage claim, God bless me and to have a good reunion. I was touched.
I was also shaking. Now he could be coming any minute. My eyes scanned the crowd just waiting to see a glimpse of him.
From the second I saw him, everything else faded away. I could feel myself running (as best I could in high heels) the short distance to meet him and then it was over. The second we touched, our deployment was over and I could feel the relief fill my body. We hugged so tight and he picked me up and I didn’t give a second to thought to what anyone else was doing. It was like for those few seconds we were the only ones left in the world.
We walked over to where our photographer was and he told me he had to go to the bathroom. I didn’t want to ever let him go again, but I did. We hugged and kissed some more and then when he was done we went to get his baggage. I had a huge smile on my face. I felt complete again and there was nothing in the world that was going to bring me down in those moments.
Of course we all know it doesn’t end there, life goes on, but that day will forever be etched into my memory. The weeks that have followed have been wonderful. I was worried at how reintegration would be and while it has only been a few weeks it has not been as bad as I had pictured. Being able to do everything together again even just hold hands, or sit next to each other or in the same room is just the most amazing feeling in the world. it has taught me not to take a single day for granted. Homecoming: there’s nothing like it.