I had so much to write, this has been split into two posts! This has become a wonderful way for us to document our crazy life, and an especially great way to share our news with our close family and friends. If you aren’t interested in reading my random thoughts from this deployment, I wouldn’t recommend this post. And if you are looking for pictures and updates from the actual homecoming day, those will be in the next post very soon 🙂
Homecoming is a day I have been looking forward to before Steve even left us. When we found out we were pregnant last fall, my mind immediately started racing. After the “Oh my God we’re having a baby” moment passed, I began counting nine months on my fingers trying to figure out when our little miracle would arrive. Then I started counting seven months on my fingers from Steve’s tentative deployment date to guess an approximate homecoming. Subtract the months, and I got the number 3. Three months. Our baby would be three months before he (or she!) got to meet Daddy.
I’ve heard a lot of wives talk about how they have the hardest job in the military. They must take care of the family and the home while their spouse is deployed, at training, or absent for a handful of other reasons. I’ve never really understood this train of thought. Granted, working full time, running a house, going to school full time, taking care of an infant, and our beloved German Shepherd was a little exhausting at times. Yes, I would have liked Steve to mow the yard, take out the trash, help with laundry, or fix dinner for me. But I also know he was in Afghanistan wishing he was doing exactly that – helping me, spending time at home doing everyday chores and sleeping in his own bed. I was the one that got to live in the comfort of our home this deployment. I was greeted by Zoe with puppy kisses everyday when I got home from work. I got to hold Mitchell everyday and watch him grow during his first three months. And as much as I know he wanted to be there, Steve couldn’t be. As far as I’m concerned, I had it easy. (Except for missing him, that is never easy.) So, thank a service member the next time you get a chance, because not only are they risking their lives in a faraway land to defend America’s freedoms, but they are also sacrificing precious time with their families they can’t get back.
Steve is pictured far left.
Living in a military town has made it easy to forget how difficult this lifestyle can be, because it is the “norm,” or has been the norm for most families. When meeting someone new, all-too-often the conversation ends up exchanging the same questions: “What unit is your husband with?” “Is he home?” “When does he deploy next?” This became very clear to me in a simple conversation I had several months ago. It was only days after Steve had deployed, and my dad and I were in the driveway outside my house. Our neighbor, Anna, who was nine years old at the time, came over to talk. We have been neighbors with Anna’s family for two-and-a-half years now, and she is the most kind-hearted, sweetest, genuine nine-year-old I have ever met. She saw Steve’s jeep in the driveway and asked if he was home. I explained that he wasn’t, and he had just deployed. She asked where he deployed to, and I replied to Afghanistan. She simply replied, “Oh, my daddy is deploying too but I am not really sure when yet.” The conversation drifted to school, and eventually she went inside, leaving my dad and I standing in the driveway. I hadn’t noticed, but my dad was shocked at the normality of the conversation. He was taken aback that I was talking to a nine-year-old, using words like “deployment” and “Afghanistan,” and she understood what they meant. Anna understands military life, which is accompanied by harsh realities that force children to grow up faster than they should. So in addition to thanking a service member, remember their children and their sacrifices as well.
We were beyond blessed this deployment. Communication was as good as it gets. At times I felt guilty not video chatting Steve when he was on the computer, because last deployment we were not afforded that opportunity (until a week before he came home… not that I complained, but come on, 6 and 3/4 months of a 7 month deployment, and then you give him internet and electricity?!) Communication consisted of hand-written letters with a 2-month lag, and a possible phone-call every couple of months from a crummy satellite phone – and sometimes the phone would cut out after only a few minutes, and he wouldn’t call back! That was a stressful, worry-filled deployment. This one was different. Sometimes, after awhile, we would just run out of things to say! That’s when I would find myself leaving Mitchell in front of the computer and go into another room so they could have their “boy time.”
Steve is pictured far left.
His purpose this deployment was different. He was not pushed out to the smallest patrol base they could find, but he still was working under hostile and unpredictable conditions. Worries were still there for me, but because I could talk to him everyday, they only had a day to build instead of months. I think there were only a handful of days we didn’t communicate in one form or another. And beyond just knowing he was okay, we were really able to talk. Every family is inevitably going to have “big” decisions in any six-month span. It’s long enough to where something is going to come up. While we didn’t experience any “family emergencies” while he was away (Praise Jesus!), I was able to ask his opinion and advice on anything I wanted. Last deployment, I walked around with a Post-It note full of the three things I couldn’t forget to ask him real quick in the off-chance he called. This time communication was better than when he is at home training on Camp Lejeune. I know God never gives you more than you can handle, and he was really looking out for us this time, because (beyond my selfish interests in wanting to talk to him), Steve and Mitchell were able to “spend time together” before they even met.
“Meeting” Daddy via Skype, only an hour old.
Babysitting from Afghanistan.
And though we were busy back here at home, we still managed to put together a few care packages for Steve. Contents included: first hospital blanket, first outfit, lots of pictures, his newborn lion onsie (Daddy’s favorite!), little boy footprints, and so much more!
I spent months planning for this homecoming. Yes, I probably could have crammed it all into the last two weeks, but I would have been 100% stressed and not able to enjoy prepping for the moment we had been waiting for: Steve’s homecoming! There was so much to do – get ahead on my schoolwork so there would be no homework to do after homecoming, stock the refrigerator with the ingredients to Steve’s favorite foods, make and hang homecoming signs, clean the house (yes, I did this obsessively, even pulling an all-nighter to shampoo the carpets), and pick out homecoming outfits! I found myself laughing (again, another military-life moment) when I was shopping with my mother-in-law about a month ago on our trip to New England. I was about to try on a dress, and the college girl working at the store overheard me say “Oh, this would be cute for homecoming.” This perked her interest, and she said, “What school do you go to?” I tried my best not to laugh. I wasn’t laughing at her, but I found the miscommunication pretty comical. First, my thought was, “Holy cow, she thinks I’m in high school! Maybe she didn’t see the stroller I’m pushing? Oh well, I’ll take it as a complement!” The part that was even more amusing was that she was thinking “high school football homecoming,” while I was thinking, “Afghanistan homecoming.” Sometimes it’s easy to get caught up in the military town “bubble,” and forget that there are people that aren’t associated with the military out there!
One of the hardest things about this deployment was watching Steve say goodbye to our beloved German Shepherd, Zoe.
It broke my heart.
We brought her home when she was only a fourteen pound puppy, weeks after Steve returned from Afghanistan last time. She is now a whopping 70 pounds, and has become such a big part of our family. I love the bond she and Steve share. And this week, she only proved that more. Steve’s pelican case showed up a week before he did in the mail. I lugged it inside the house and left it by the front door when it came, mostly because it was heavy and I was too lazy to put it in the garage just yet. But then I started noticing a change in Zoe. Those of you I have been talking to this deployment know I have been worried about Zoe. Days before Steve left she paced the entire house, and would not lie down. She didn’t eat for four days after he left. Then she started hiding her food in various places throughout the house (under the bed, in the closets, etc.). It was pretty apparent she was down-in-the-dumps, and not her usual goofy self. During this entire deployment, if I want her to eat, I’ve had to stand next to her bowl and coax her. Left to her own devices, her bowl will sit untouched for an entire day. But all of the sudden, she ate it all in minutes. She was excited and jumping around the house. I thought it was strange at first, but I was happy she seemed to be back to her old self. Then I noticed she started camping out next to the pelican case by the door. Every time I came inside, or downstairs, she was there. That was when I realized the reason for her sudden change in behavior.
She knew he was coming home.
As much as I wanted to have everything put away and in order, I didn’t have the heart to move it into the garage. This lasted the entire week. It made me even more excited for the day we had been waiting for for so long.
So, after all the preparations were complete, there was only one thing we could do: wait. This is when the butterflies start flying. The same thing happened last deployment. Looking back, I thought the butterflies were because we had been married less than a year, and nine months of that the military forced us to spend apart. Nope, we have now been married three years and nothing has changed! It was like being sixteen and was waiting to see your date at junior prom. You’re so overcome by nervousness and excitement at the same time… your stomach is flip-flopping with jitters. Funny part is, Steve is the guy that gave me those jitters at the junior prom, and here he was doing it again, eight years later! But this time neither of us had braces 😉
So no more writing about deployment. No more missing him. No more counting down. We are going to be a family for the very first time!