What to Expect- Your First Deployment Homecoming

Let's get one thing straight, I am certainly no seasoned Marine Corps wife. I don't claim to have all the answers or really have any answers. I'm not the saltiest devil dog spouse, or the highest ranking officer's wife. In fact, most often I'm the most uninformed wife, but regardless I've experienced one Homecoming, one incredibly powerful Homecoming.

My husband was deployed for 7 long months, not including his 6 months of work-ups. During workups he'd leave for a few weeks at a time. The back and forth of work-ups is enough to drive anyone crazy. I was of course at home caring for our two babies, Lucy 3, and Amelia 2. Needless to say the deployment was rough.. seriously crazy. (More on that in another post). This post is specifically designated to preparing for your first deployment Homecoming, specifically the first month.

The Actual Homecoming Day.. it's here, it's really here.. well almost.

Prepare for things to change. Then change again. Then continue to change.
Times, locations, circumstances, none of it is set in stone. It may seem a bit depressing but keeping your expectations low, your hopes low, and your ideas of the "perfect" Homecoming very low.

For example: my good friend's husband was on the same deployment as mine. He is also a pilot and was supposed to fly in for all the family & friends to see. Huge letdown.. that never happened. Instead the families greeted their Marines in an empty hangar, no special circumstances, no balloons, nothing. Not what you'd expect right? The movies make it seem so glamorous, and don't get me wrong some deployment Homecomings are quite the show. But the fact of the matter is, many of these Homecomings aren't all "We Missed You" signs, or red, white & blue confetti. Some families get to experience these pomp and circumstances, but a lot simply do not. Many Homecomings consist of a dirty buses pulling up in the dark and soldiers simply walking off. Other Homecomings are lonesome parking lot reunions at 2:00 in the morning. Your Marine is home, that's all that matters, but is it? Don't we deserve the pomp and circumstances? I sure think so.

Bring/ Hire someone to take photos.

I myself am a photographer so you can imagine the amount of convincing it took for me to hire someone to take our Homecoming photos. And boy am I so glad I did. This moment, these photos, are irreplaceable. Wrangling children is hard enough.. imagine the emotions, the culmination of such a trying time, staging photos or taking photos simply isn't gonna happen, at least the way you'd want it. You've taken a break from your mom uniform and your kids look ridiculously adorable so pull the trigger, higher the photographer, or at least bring a friend to snap a few.  I had zero stress when it came to photos and in turn, it made the experience that much more enjoyable. I still get chills when looking back on these photos.

OK.. Now What?

Expect the feeling of "Now what?" Ok. now what do we do? I've only been waiting for you for 7+ months.. what's next? You won't recognize these feelings. Because at first, it will feel as if they never left. The first 24 hours is tricky like that. He'll re-appear in your arms and you'll wonder what it ever felt like when he was gone. The next month is the real kicker. Reintegration is NO JOKE. Maybe for some families your significant other seamlessly enters the home, the routine, and the family. But honestly most families I've spoken with aren't so lucky. For me and my family I'll admit, I'm a bit of a control freak. I didn't used to be like this, but since having children, my way is simply the best way.

So you can imagine after not having my husband the last 7+ months inside our four walls, him entering is kind of messing up my groove. The routine is shot, the kids are crazy, and it kind of feels like everything you've worked so hard to do on your own gets a little screwed up. It takes some time to incorporate him back into your routine. I even found myself using phrases like "my kitchen, my bed, my house." Thank goodness I have an understanding husband who just kind of chuckled when hearing me utter those phrases. Eventually everything will be "ours" again.

Say no to visitors (at least for a little while)

It isn't simply your husband who has arrived home safely from a deployment. He's also a brother, a son, a grandson, a cousin, and a friend. So many people will be ecstatic to learn of his Homecoming and don't get me wrong, having a support system that stretches beyond the immediate family is such a blessing. However, the first week or so is such an important transitional period for the family. Politely say no to visitors, give you and your husband a chance to look at one another, talk to one another, face to face, in his own home, with his own children, back on his own turf. Be certain to plan a trip to reunite with extended family, or host them in your own home, but if this is the first deployment hold off on the huge Homecoming parties until your Marine/Solider feels comfortable back home again.

Give yourself grace, give him grace, give your kids grace.

I felt as if my balloon had finally burst upon my husband's Homecoming. I had kept it all together with two babies, two dogs, a cat, and a fish tank. I emotionally hit my limit and broke down. The funny thing was this didn't happen immediately. It didn't even happen a week later. He'd been home about a month and it was then that I collapsed into my first ever anxiety attack.

We were driving home from a family get together and I started to feel incredibly ill. My stomach was in knots, I felt like the air was being sucked out of my lungs, and my heart was pounding. The tears started and wouldn't stop. My husband pulled over the car and walked me up and down the side of the highway in an attempt to calm me down. In that moment, I couldn't tell you why on earth I was so upset; I couldn't pinpoint the reason behind the tears or the panic. I just knew I could simply NOT calm down. After physically becoming ill we climbed back into the car, I then fell asleep, I fell asleep hard.

The next day Matt and my mother-in-law jumped in and took over, with everything. I slept for what felt like an entire day. Reintegration at it's finest. It wasn't until a full 24 hours later that I started feeling human again. My mother-in-law, a former Marine Spouse, offered some great words of wisdom. She told me to give myself grace, all the grace. She told me how normal it was to fall apart.  I mean who wouldn't after having it all together for so long? It's almost as if physically my body knew that I needed to let my guard down, let him back in, and show that my weakness was ok to reveal.

The same grace applies to your husband and your children. Once his boots are back in your home everything may seem out of order, because it likely is. Embrace the change and offer patience with the nasty attitudes, the impatience, and the snapping. It's all part of it, and thank God through it all that he's here to experience life once more with you. This last deployment I found myself pretty lonely at times. Even though I am surrounded by family, friends, and of course my kiddos, loneliness can creep up on you. It was then that I really found comfort in re-visiting my dusty Bible.

To be honest, I could continue to go on and on, but every story is different, every Homecoming is different and when it's all said and done he is home, and that is all that matters.

3 Quick Prayers for yourself, your husband, and your family:

Genesis 31:49 
"May the Lord keep watch between you and me when we are away from each other."

 Lamentations 3: 21-24
“But this I call to mind, and therefore I have hope: The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases; his mercies never come to an end; they are new every morning; great is your faithfulness. ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I will hope in Him.’”

1 Corinthians 13: 7-8

"Love rejoices with the truth, it always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres, love never fails." 

My Bible Study Recommendations:

 Open Your Bible: God's word is for You and for Now by: Lifeway Press -- Purchase HERE
 Tour of Duty: Preparing our Hearts for Deployment by: Lifeway Press -- Purchase HERE
 Seamless: Understanding the Bible as one complete story by: Lifeway Press -- Purchase HERE

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