Someone just pinch me. Did this week really just happen?
God has blessed me beyond my wildest dreams.
I love my husband. I love our son. I love our home. I love our friends. I love our dog. I love our life. I suppose I will start at the beginning of this fairytale week. Sorry if this post gets a little long 🙂
Military life has been great to us, but that is not to say it has come without hardships. We have faced challenges; Steve’s absence during this deployment was a big one. The friends we have made throughout our journey so far have made the good times fun, and the hard times bearable. Whether it was a simple invitation for dinner when you’re by yourself at home, an Olive Garden girl’s reunion, an ear to listen to frustrations of the wife of a wounded warrior, or a party that ended up in the boys daring each other to eat crickets (yes, that happened), we have been together for the ups and downs.
Always love Olive Garden dates with the wives 🙂
Flashback: to two years ago – last deployment, a few of the boys got an early ticket home after a run-in with an IED, but they were there waiting when the rest of the Marines returned.
The amount of support we have received from our friends is so humbling. First, I found out our friend Tim (Kim’s husband & Steve’s best friend) was coming to homecoming. I was ecstatic, and I knew Steve would be too. Then, I found out Lindsay was coming down with Maybree from Pennsylvania the weekend before he came home! They would be here to help with homecoming preparations, meet little Macy, and watch the white buses with the boys roll in! I still can’t believe how blessed we are. I was so happy two of our best friends that have been there since the beginning of our military adventure would be there on this wonderful day to help me welcome home Steve.
Homecoming would not be complete without the welcome home banners. It always gives me chills driving by the gate leading to base and seeing all the signs made by the military families welcoming home their Marines. Military wives come up with banners in all types… cute, exciting, loving, heartfelt, and sometimes a little inappropriate 😉
This is what we came up with.
And of course, we had to decorate the house 🙂
I couldn’t have imagined a more beautiful day for homecoming. There was not a cloud in the sky and the sun was shining. To follow suit with the first week of fall, it was a cool 75 degree day without humidity and a nice breeze. I woke up this morning to a phone call from Steve saying they were in Maine! They were finally on United States soil! We reactivated his phone, but I had not yet received a phone call from his phone yet, so seeing his contact information pop up on the screen immediately gave me butterflies! They were leaving soon from Maine to Cherry Point, NC (about a 45 minute bus ride back to base!).
We were all ready the night before, so all we had to do was sit around until 1300 (military for 1:00 in the afternoon) and wait for the buses to arrive! He was able to text me updates along the way. When they landed in North Carolina, it really hit me. We were in the same state!!! Mitchell finished his morning nap, Lindsay and I packed up Mitchell and Maybree, and we were off to base!
Of course we dressed the babes in the best patriotic, celebratory welcome home outfits we could find!
Steve texted to tell me which bus he was on. Usually there are lots of buses, but this time there were only two. Fortunately for our family, Steve was chosen to come home on “Advon,” or the small group that comes home before the rest of the unit. Usually this consists of the personnel necessary to get ready for the whole battalion to come home, but they reserve a few seats for the Marines who get to meet their new babies for the first time! I think I can speak for the other few wives I saw with newborns at homecoming when I say I felt so blessed he didn’t have to spend another day in Afghanistan waiting to hold his son!
When we learned they were closer, all the wives began running around, holding their signs, rounding up the children dressed in red, white & blue, doing their best to restrain themselves from stepping over the imaginary line we were told not to cross until the guys were off the bus. (I was trying to wake up Mitchell because, despite all the excitement, he was trying to take a nap!)
When I see the white buses around Jacksonville, I get mixed feelings. For some reason, which I do not know, the military uses white (as opposed to yellow) buses to transport the guys around base. These are the buses used to take them away to deployments, but also bring them back. It’s just something about those white buses that makes me think of deployments, but also homecomings. But today, there were no sad feelings when we saw those buses! First we heard they were 30 minutes out, then 15, then on base, and before we knew it, we heard the engines of the Patriot Guard riders and the white bus with our Marine was rolling into the homecoming area!
From a distance I could see the first few Marines stepping off the bus, but not ours. I was scanning through each Marine, dismissing the short ones or the tan ones 🙂 Then I saw him! It was his walk, and his smile, and everything! Then, before I knew it, I lost him in a sea of camouflage and I had no idea where he went. No “I couldn’t take my eyes off of him.” No “we ran to each other the second we met eyes.” More like, “I swear I just saw him… am I going crazy?” Then Lindsay spotted him again and pointed him out. And a few seconds later he spotted us. And then, I don’t think words could do justice describing the moment he met our son… but I think these pictures and this video do a pretty good job 🙂
Mitchell doesn’t usually scream. He’ll put up a wimpy cry, but nothing to say, “Something is seriously wrong.” But he started screaming during our first hug. Then Steve and I looked at each other and laughed, because we hugged so tight we accidentally squeezed him too hard! He got over it pretty quickly though, and was so happy to finally meet his daddy. So what did Steve do? He threw down his pack, said, “Honey, hold my rifle,” and grabbed our boy for the very first time. Good thing my dad taught me how to hold a gun 😉
And I am so happy to share our very first family pictures 🙂
Zoe was SO excited to finally have her human back! She won’t leave him alone! So, what have we been doing since we got Steve back?
– Going for a family walk and visiting the Sketchley’s.
– A pizza date on the couch just like old times.
– Enjoying an afternoon at the shooting range.
– Washing lots of dirty military gear in the washer.
– And of course, lots of Daddy-Son time! I found them watching Top Gear together when I woke up this morning 🙂
– And not to brag, but on Steve’s first night/morning back, he woke up with Mitchell in the night, got up with him in the morning, changed a poopy diaper, got him dressed for the day, gave him a bottle, and had him down for a nap! He is never ever ever leaving again!!!
But most importantly, cutting down that yellow ribbon! Daddy is back! And the best part is, it feels like he never left 🙂
*** NOTE ***
I hired an amazing local photographer, Julie Gayler, who specializes in military homecomings. She was 100% professional and personable, and I would definitely recommend her to anyone looking for a photographer in Jacksonville!! I cannot thank her enough for capturing this beautiful moment in our lives!
Credit to my friend Lindsay on the rest of the pictures (the ones at home), and video! Lindsay, you are an amazing friend! Thank you so much for driving seven hours to see us, doing my dishes, watching Mitchell while I did my homework, helping me get everything ready for homecoming, being our personal photographer and videographer, helping me pick out an outfit, keeping my nerves calm, letting me kick you out of the house right after homecoming, and for being an all around amazing person! I had so much fun during our visit! We love you and miss you already and can’t wait to see you at Maybree’s first birthday party!