He’s home! I guess that’s old news now. I’ve been trying to get this blog out for what feels like f.o.r.e.v.e.r. But here it is, finally! Daddy is really home! First thing’s first. Every single picture in this post is courtesy of the amazing Caitlin Skinner Photography. Her time at Camp Lejeune is short, but if you have any photography needs any time soon, book her. You won’t regret it. Now, onto the good stuff.
Making y’all wait for an extra couple weeks for this post is really how deployment played out, so I guess it’s fitting. Steve was originally scheduled to come home in January. Or so I thought. In all those pre-deployment conversations, I was only ever told we were in for a seven month deployment – expected homecoming January. So imagine my surprise when I was “comforted” by his fellow Marine as they were boarding the white buses to take them away when he said, “It’s only 7-10 months… it’ll fly by.” Hold up. Ten months?! No one ever told me about this. And off they went on the bus before I had a chance to ask any questions. And so the estimated January homecoming, in fact, was eventually pushed back to a Friday in mid-April… well over nine months later. And then Saturday. And then Sunday morning. And then Sunday evening. Meanwhile I got word the DAY BEFORE I’d be attended a week-long school for work two hours away and leaving at 04:00 on Monday morning. You can’t make this stuff up. So the short version of the long story and even longer wait is that this homecoming was a long time coming – and we still feel like we’re waiting to get some quality time with our guy. Relaxing summer, hurry up!
For my readers not familiar with Camp Lejeune, here’s how the homecoming works. Or at least how it’s been for us three for three times. The boys land somewhere in North America, and hop on a plane to Cherry Point, which is a small Marine Corps air base about 45 minutes north of Camp Lejeune. From there, they deboard the planes and load up the white buses, and head home. You’d think it’d take about an hour for this to happen, right? Wrong. Like when they land in Cherry Point would be a good time to head over to the pick up point, right? Wrong again. Four hours later, we were still waiting for the boys to finish loading up the buses, make the drive to Camp Lejeune, stop at the armory and drop off all their weapons (this is what took so long), and finally make their way to their families. Luckily, they had a bounce house just for this occasion, which kept Mitchell and Julia occupied for the majority of the morning.
We had a beautiful day for homecoming, and the sunshine meant we got to wear our pretty spring clothes to go see Daddy!
It’s a homecoming tradition to make a fun sign for your Marine when he steps off the bus. Three out of three times we’ve put the sign down to hug him and he hasn’t even read it until after the fact. But it’s the thought that counts and it’s sure exciting when you get to the sign-making point of deployment!
First, these big trucks roll up and a few Marines jump out and unload all of the packs. They all look exactly the same, with the exception of the uniform little name tags scribbled with you Marine’s name. It’s hit or miss – sometimes it seems like the first bag we look at has his name, and other times he looks at 100 bags before he finds his. Either way, imagine the excitement when a bag shows up with YOUR MARINE’S name on it. The same Marine that has been deployed for nearly ten months and there’s something laying RIGHT TEHRE that belongs to him. He’s really coming home! And then you take one pull of the strap and realize the bag weighs 80 pounds and leave it laying right there for him to load up into the car. 😉
Eventually we got the text messages that they were done at the armory and headed our way. Which meant T minus five minutes until Daddy!
Since we had been waiting all afternoon, both kids missed their naps. Mitchell was definitely hurting for that glorious three hour afternoon rest more than Julia, and it showed. I tried my very best to cheer him up and get him excited, but as you can see, it was only marginally successful. More thoughts on reuniting babies and toddlers with Daddy after long absences later, but it wasn’t the running across the grass and screaming with delight that you see on Army wives. But no missed nap was going to rain on our parade.
We watched and watched the road for the buses to pull up.
And then we saw them and it was really happening! Ten months and the longest afternoon of waiting was finally over, and we just had to find our Marine in the sea of camouflage getting off the buses. I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, because there aren’t really words to describe that feeling of having your family together and safe again after months of waiting and praying.
After we wrapped up our family hugging and kissing and more hugging, we found friends and hugged them too. This picture makes me so happy. I have no idea who that family is in the background, but they look so joyful to see their Marine too. I mean, how can you not? It’s just a happy day all around.
One person not in these pictures is our friend Tiffany, and I want to take a quick second to talk about her. Our friends, the Roxby’s, are a Marine family who’ve been on this journey with us since Day 1. Boot Camp. I was texting her the MORNING BEFORE homecoming and talking about how much we missed them, and how so many of our friends have moved away from Camp Lejeune this year. I didn’t have anyone to take a video of the homecoming, which is something I really wanted. My friend Lindsay got a video of our last homecoming, when Steve met Mitchell for the first time, and it is something I will cherish forever. A few minutes later I got a text message back asking if she could come and help. I replied and reminded her that she lives at Parris Island, six hours away, and she has a one year old and would have to leave in a few hours, and called her, for lack of better words, crazy. And was so incredibly touched at the fact that she would even consider doing something so generous for our family. And then she replied and said, “Okay, well I’m coming,” or something along those lines. So sure enough, this girl came on Saturday night. We drank wine and ate pizza and girl talked until late and picked out homecoming outfits. She helped me get everything just right, and then loaded up her car before the homecoming, because she’s done this herself before and understands that after homecoming all any family wants is to be alone! I haven’t had a chance to finish putting together the video, but it’s coming soon (I promise!), and she doesn’t know it yet but she did such an amazing job and it’s something I am truly going to cherish forever! That video and these pictures. Military homecomings are a moment in time that take so much pain and waiting and sacrifice to get to, but the joy they come with is simply indescribable. So to wrap this up, we’re still here! We’ve hit the ground running this spring with a loaded calendar. Steve got thrown right back into the mix of it all. And we couldn’t be happier to have him home 🙂