As many of you know, originally I thought Josh would be coming home in January. Josh told me he didn’t have a homecoming date until about November he finally told me January 2 – which is about what I expected. But the more we talked and made plans, some details weren’t adding up and I could tell that Josh was avoiding my questions. I started getting suspicious that he was trying to surprise me and come home early, but I also didn’t want to get my hopes up. I couldn’t shake the feeling though! So even though I hated potentially spoiling a big surprise, the state of half-knowing was driving me crazy so I asked. First Josh tried to keep the secret going, but eventually he confirmed what I had suspected: he was coming homing “early.” (YEAH!!!!) Really, he knew since the beginning that he’d be home before January, but got the idea early on of doing a surprise homecoming. As great as that could have been I’m thankful that the truth came out – it helped a lot with preparing for his return! Which, as I learned, would be December 26.
The two weeks leading up to Josh’s return felt long although I had plenty to get back in order before he came home. I wanted to take time and process the past 6 months, but I felt unable to do so. I desired reflection, but my heart and mind were in survival mode – I couldn’t process much at all. It sounds dramatic, but it wasn’t. I simply couldn’t focus on much more than was right in front of me. I was wary of getting too excited for the future, lest travel plans change. And I couldn’t focus on the past because processing all those emotions and experiences still felt overwhelming.
But time passes as it usually does, and the day arrived! I slowly got ready (kill.ing.the.time) and then went in for a facial/massage as a little you-made-it-through-homecoming present. (Definitely glad I did – great way to de-stress and establish an inner calm on an emotionally charged day.) Through relaxation and prayer, I was able to begin thinking about all the new experiences we had each faced over the last 6 months – so much had happened. Our friends and family got married and started new lives together. Friends had new little babies in their homes. I had been on 5 different trips to visit family and friends. We planned a trip to Europe for 2014. I started up a new youth program and completed one semester already. Josh had been accepted for the AFIT program and was applying to grad school. He met tons of new people and experienced living in an entirely different culture. He had new work and leadership experiences that I knew little about. Not to mention all the day to day adventures we each had and learning to live alone again… time had passed. We grew and changed.
But that moment when I was driving to pick Josh up, 6 months didn’t feel so long. With the deployment in front of me, it seemed like an eternity. But now it was over, done. We made it! We didn’t become discouraged or defeated. We ran the race.,and it was worth it. My friend Sarah often likened our deployment to a marathon, which I think I’ve mentioned before. I’m not much of a runner, but I can imagine that it’s a similar feeling. It’s terrible and painful and takes everything you have to get through it, but when you cross that finish line…the accomplishment you feel is indescribable. It felt good to stand on the other side of deployment. I know the last 2 years I’ve been a military spouse, but now I felt it more truly in that moment than I had before.
Unlike other deployments, Josh did not deploy as a unit but deployed on his own. He flew out of our local airport, and arrived a our local airport. No big ceremony – just a normal commercial flight, which I was thankful for. Having a familiar surrounding helped begin the transition back to normalcy, I think. Or at least alleviated some of the high expectations. I’ve imagined this moment of our reunion for months…and it’s easy to put a ton of pressure on how a homecoming “should” go. So the familiar environment helped relieve some of the stress and pressure that can surround a military homecoming. The “big” returns are so beautiful and special, and I love seeing the video footage of hundreds of families coming together again; I was just really glad for our small, quiet moment.
Josh’s plane was scheduled to land at 4:45, then got a bit delayed due to freezing weather. But the flights coming in from MSP are usually 15 minutes early anyhow, so I got there at 4:45 expecting him to arrive at 5:15. We had a few friends still in town that came to greet him with me and I was very thankful for their company because Josh’s plane ended up coming after 6! It wasn’t a really long delay…but long enough for me to get anxious and unable to make decisions about whether to get a bottle of water or hot tea (I got both), and start pacing/bopping around. Then a plane arrived and everyone was coming through the security gate and I was jumping around in anticipation, and then we realized it wasn’t even Josh’s plane. Ha! But shortly thereafter, I saw him come through the gate…