Reunited and it Feels so Good: My First Military Homecoming
267 days. That is 6,408 hours that I spent without my husband and best friend by my side. And let me tell you, that last hour out of the first 6,407 was definitely the longest. As I am writing this post, my husband, Troy is home with me, drinking a glass of wine and hanging out with Chewy. He’s been home for about a few weeks now so I wanted to take a second to write and reflect on the experience of his first deployment.
Having said that it’s his first one, I am by no means an expert on deployment or coping strategies. I don’t think that I am an excellent role model to be emulated in these types of circumstances and I am sure I have a lot to learn. However, this is just my interpretation of the past nine months of my life and the insights I’ve gained during that time frame.
I sort of feel like deployment is like the stages of grief. There are a few moments of the past nine months that stand out in my mind as just really rock bottom bad. The most notable being coming back to my empty apartment last October after saying goodbye to Troy. He had to be dropped off on post around 3:00 in the morning (!!!!!). We didn’t really sleep the night before. We just stayed up and played board games and hung out until it was time to go. That means, after I dropped him off, I was already sleep deprived. But of course when I got home the last thing I wanted to do was sleep. I turned the key in the door and was hit by an overwhelming feeling of loneliness. I felt so defeated. We hadn’t even made it a whole twenty four hours and I had come home to the very first place that was ours and saw it for what it really was – just an empty apartment. All of him and all of me was already gone and packed away in storage. I had no more home here. After I got a good cry in, I finished cleaning the place out and moved back to Florida for the remainder of deployment.
The first month was pretty rough just because I felt like time wasn’t moving. I mean, when you make it a week out of nine months it’s a little discouraging. But then, I decided to go pay a visit to Florida State for homecoming festivities with my sister. This was an awesome decision. I was right in front of the stage at a Zac Brown Band concert the night that it was two months down and it was probably the Bud Lite, but I cried at the end of Colder Weather and actually felt a lot better afterwards.
After the two month mark, the months started passing quicker. I had so many amazing experiences over the course of the next few months – I went to Cabo with an awesome friend of mine, taught 10th grade at a great school, worked weekends at a natural spring, went on so many hikes and adventures with Chewy, and got loved on by my family. Since I was working close to sixty five hours a week, I was staying busy and getting in a rhythm. Around May, the school year was winding down and I was really getting antsy about Troy coming home.
This is the part where I’ll impart some wisdom – or at least something I learned. The redeployment or homecoming day will change a thousand times before your soldier actually comes home. At one point during Troy’s deployment, there were rumors flying around that they were going to be extended another several months making it closer to a year deployment. It’s easier said than done, but don’t get excited one way or the other. I got my hopes way too high when we were told everyone would be home by 30 June. Troy didn’t end up actually coming home until almost two weeks into July. I learned to be patient and non-reactionary to news concerning dates and times. A lot of times, because of operational security reasons, the redeployment information will be vague on purpose. The most you can really do is contact the rear detachment point of contact and pray.
Once we got into June, we started getting news of homecoming ceremony dates and times. Of course, my husband was on the very last flight out of everyone in the brigade, but on homecoming day, none of that mattered.
My friend and I arrived at the ceremony about an hour early and sat and fidgeted and cried and fidgeted some more waiting to finally see the guys.
And then, like that, they were home. Their formation lasted maybe five minutes and then they were released and it was like the whole nine months just melted away. I told Troy, it felt like deployment was a string that was getting stretched the whole time he was gone and then it snapped back end to end when he came home. It really is easy to forget about all the crappy stuff you go through, but that’s why I wanted to write this post and share my experience while it’s still fresh. Because, for lack of a better term, deployment is straight bull shit. Its hard work and complete loneliness and constant miscommunication and frustration and feeling like whatever you do isn’t enough and that you’ll never be done. But I can say now, it is one hundred and ten percent worth it to have your soldier home again.
I am so proud of my husband and so happy he is home. If you’re going through or have been through something similar, share your experience! It’s a crazy time and we have to stick together through it.
Cheers to togetherness and happy reunions.