Welcome Home Marines SSG Ames!
When you get the news that your soldier is coming home from what seems like a forever-long deployment, there’s excitement, tears of joy, and happy phone calls to family members. You tell your friends, you decorate your car, you plaster yellow ribbons and homemade signs on every inch of your yard; it’s the start of a celebration of being reunited with your love, and you want to share your excitement. There are no words to describe your elatedness for the return of your hero.
But there’s that moment during the days and weeks of waiting for him to get off of that plane, where it seems like everything is moving far too slowly. It feels like nothing you do can speed up time until you’re face to face with him, no amount of housecleaning to keep your mind from buzzing and screaming “hurry up! Hurry up! I wish he was just here already!”
Finally, after what seems like another full deployment of waiting, you and your fellow wives/husbands/girlfriends/boyfriends/fiances huddle into the gym and fill up the field, sporting yellow and red, white and blue, all of you bouncing and giggling and nearing bursting at the seams to ‘hurry up and wait’. You chatter excitedly together, share the happy hugs and wave your welcome signs. Someone in the crowd starts chanting the unit’s name and you join in with as much pride and lung-bursting hollers as you can muster. Until you see that white bus pull up in front of you.
It’s like everything goes silent; cheers stop(briefly), birds hush their songs. You’re holding your breath and so is the wife next to you, and maybe she grabs your hand for support. You watch, heart rattling around like a wild animal in your chest as the sea of camouflage begins to pour from the buses, the trampling of hundreds of sand-ridden boots thundering in your ears. Your palms are sweating so profusely you have to keep wiping them on your brand new outfit, wondering in the back of your mind if he’ll like that new blouse you bought special for the occasion. Frantic eyes search the mass of soldiers, and you keep whispering, “Where are you? Was that him? They’re almost here!” You don’t have to see his face to know he’s in there, just as nervous and excited as you are, wishing he could break out of the formation to pull you out of the crowd.
Then, they halt in unison, a perfectly synchronized motion as their commander calls out over the roaring crowd. The ceremony starts and you sing along with your hand over your heart as the National Anthem is played, all the while bouncing on your heels as your soldier stands just feet away. Sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can pick him out of the many similar faces; your eyes keep darting over to check if he’s still there, if he’s real. If you don’t see him, you never manage to tear your eyes away from the formation.
When the commander yells, “FIND YOUR SOLDIER!”, it is a rampage. People squealing, clapping, crying, all of them pushing through the crowd to find their loved one. You’re in the mix, nearly twisting your ankle as you hastily search through the bodies. For a moment, when you feel like you’ve looked at every face, there’s a sudden fear that, “well maybe this is the wrong ceremony!” or, “what if he got held up at the airport?” It’s a panicky, sinking feeling, threatening to drown you, when a hand emerges through the crowd and latches onto yours.
Tears, so many tears. You’d think you cried enough while he was gone, but it’s as if you’re starting all over again. You grab him and hold on for dear life, terrified if you let go he’ll disappear. He’s laughing through happy tears at how you’re fussing over him, wiping the wetness from your cheeks and brushing your hair back from your face. And then, the kiss: It is explosive, it is dynamite. Fireworks go off and the world spins beneath your feet and you don’t know if you’re going to faint from all of this whirlwind emotion. Your beloved is home and there is nothing in this world that could top this moment.
I think, while deployments are that necessary evil we have to endure, the end of it is worth it. It’s almost like a fairytale, where the princess waits and waits for her knight to save her from the wretched day-to-day, and finally he arrives to sweep her off of her feet and ride into the sunset. He’ll have to go back, eventually, but they don’t need to talk about that now.
It’s our own happily ever after, even if it’s just for a little while.
Making the Connection: Learning to be around each other again