As I reflect on this past year and all that has happened, there has been a multitude of highs and lows. Big things are playing out in our family’s life right now, but the one that has topped the charts was welcoming my husband home from deployment!
It’s been over a month since the wonderful day I was reunited with my husband. I waited seven long months to experience the feeling other military wives told me I’d never forget. Every possible emotion raced through me during the last two weeks before Evan was scheduled to be home. I was elated, of course, but I was also terrified. During the entire deployment, I constantly had to put the life of my husband in God’s hands. It became more difficult as the end neared. My greatest fear was that we would have come so far, and then something would happen right before he was to be home. My faith was most tested in that last stretch. I remember praying nearly every hour for God to keep Evan safe and please, please bring him home to Ian and me. Another strong emotion I felt was nervousness. Yes, I was nervous. I was nervous about what life would be like after he returned. I knew it wouldn’t be the same. I’m not the same person I was before he left. He’s not the same person he was before he left. We both became stronger and more independent people. Going seven months without my husband and raising our baby alone forced me to be the decision maker and, in essence, both mommy and daddy. I had to be strong for Ian, Evan, and myself. I wanted Evan to be able to call home and know that everything was in order and that he had nothing to worry about. Did I ever cry? Oh yes, I cried many, many times. But, I dared not cry until I was alone in my room at night. I dared not cry too much on the phone with Evan. He knew I missed him, but he also needed to know that I could take care of myself and our son. The deployment changed me, and I was aware of that. My fantasy world said that everything would go back to the way it was before Evan left, but reality is a whole lot stronger than fantasy. So many things changed during the deployment. In the course of seven months, our son started crawling, talking, standing, eating solid foods, and grew four teeth. Evan got promoted. I lost 40 lbs, bought us a house and moved into it before homecoming. Our lives rapidly changed over that time, so, naturally, life reunited would be completely different. Even our love changed, but that was one very welcome change. I’ve never been more in love with this man! Separation definitely does make the love grow stronger and the hearts grow fonder.
The night of the homecoming, excitement completely took over me. I didn’t know what to do with myself! In a matter of hours, I would finally be back in the arms of my best friend. While in the frenzy of trying to get myself all prettied up, another Marine wife came over to watch Ian. I was so thankful for the brief moment of relaxation, and took advantage of it to the fullest; I took a bath. Those who have children can empathize with how amazing that small moment of peace is. You usually end up taking showers as quickly as possible, with the baby screaming and clawing at the shower curtain. I swear my son is convinced that the shower eats me up every time I close the curtain. He goes into panic mode and does everything he can possibly think of to try getting to me. If he could eat a hole through the curtain, I’m sure he would. After the most amazing bath in the world, I slipped into the outfit I had specifically picked out for the homecoming. I even had the specific makeup picked out, and then I styled my hair . . . and restyled my hair . . . and restyled my hair . . . and then restyled it once more. Okay, seriously? I could have shown up dressed in a paper bag, make-upless, frizzy hair, and Evan would have still thought I was best-looking thing he’d ever seen. But, I wanted to look good for him. He hadn’t seen me in so long, and I wanted to look stunning just for him. Finally, after a couple hours of redeciding absolutely everything, I strapped Ian in the car and headed toward base. Ian could sense my excitement and “chatted” endlessly during the entire ride.
I pulled through the main gate, and it suddenly occurred to me that I had no clue where the homecoming was being held. Oh this was going to be great. Then I started seeing signs directing to the homecoming area. I watched as obviously lost people started following other obviously lost people to the very wrong parking lot. I chuckled to myself as I drove past. Eh, someone else will help them find their way. I parked near the lot entrance (for a quick escape), and began the longest wait I’d ever experience. The moment I stepped out of the car, I became a bug feast. Of course, aside from the kitchen sink, bug spray would be the only thing I’d forget to bring. At least Ian was able to hide in the protection of his stroller. By this time, it was 8:00 pm, but the air was still ridiculously hot. Our Marines weren’t scheduled to be there for another two hours. Yet, I didn’t care. I was just way too excited. I headed towards the homecoming area, to find a large swarm of people who looked like they’d been there all day. I covered Ian’s eyes as a pair of mini-skirts, akin to just very large belts, walked by. All those girls would have needed to do was bend over a bit, and London and France would have been aired out. I’d never seen so many short, low cut, tight outfits in one place. (I understand the desire to look sexy for your man, but let’s save the bombshell clothes for at home.) To be fair, there were a lot of modestly dressed women too.
I decided to stop at a grassy area near the port-a-potties. If I had to pee, I wanted it to be a quick trip. Only problem was that my grassy knoll was downwind. So much for wearing perfume. A mixture of music played in the distance, and when I say mixture, I mean mixture. I’d never heard Toby Keith followed by Backstreet Boys before. At least it was entertaining. Evan’s best friend arrived soon after, and he took charge of Ian. Finally, at 10:00 pm, we got word that our men were in the area and were dropping their weapons off at the armory. I can’t even explain the excitement that overcame me. My husband was finally in the same location as me, and he was safe! Right at that moment, “God Bless the USA” came blaring through the speakers. Everything became eerily quiet. Tears streamed down everyone’s faces. Our men made the sacrifice, and now they’re home. Cheers exploded at the last chord of the song. Then suddenly . . . I had to pee. Talk about terrible timing! I didn’t know what to do. I was afraid to go and have them arrive while I was in the port, but I also didn’t want to wet myself either. I decided to make a break for it and hope for the best. I don’t think I’d ever run or peed so fast. My speed was in vain though, because shortly after, we got word that it would be another half hour. A low moan rippled through the crowd. I started pacing in circles. I just wanted to be in his arms, for pete’s sake!
The clock ticked close to midnight when we finally got the word that the buses were on their way. I squealed in excitement and ran up to the front of the crowd. Not before long, we heard the rumble of motorcycles. Coming towards us were members of the Patriot Riders. This was incredible! An American Flag whipped through the wind as they drove by. Slowly, in the distance, the buses pulled up. My heart jumped to my throat. This was it! This was the moment! To no avail, I desperately tried to look in the windows to find what bus Evan was on. The buses all parked, and as the doors opened, people flooded the doors. So many Marines dressed the same uniform poured out the bus doors. In the chaos of it all, I couldn’t seem to find the one man I had been separated from for seven months. I run along each bus calling out Evan’s name. At the same time I heard someone else calling for an “Evan.” Duh; of course there would be more than one Evan. I then started screaming for Sgt. Eldridge. Minutes that felt like hours ticked by. Where was he?! Out of desperation, I climbed on top of an empty metal chair. Surely he couldn’t miss the crazy woman standing above everyone, screaming her lungs out. Then I saw him. At least, it looked like him. Yes, it WAS him! I leaped from the chair into his arms. Words can’t describe how good it felt to be in his arms once again. I waited seven long months to feel the strength of his arms around me, to feel his lips on mine, to know he was there . . . alive and with me again! Every wife I talked to was right. There is no other feeling that compares to that moment. I’m so blessed to have him back!