|Who is excited to see Daddy?!?!|
Well after 7 months and two days we were finally able to welcome Ben back home last night. This was a very special time and I sat thinking about it this morning and decided that I had to share some of what we military families experience. While Ben has deployed four times, this was the only time that I was there to experience the WHOLE arrival scene. It is etched in my mind right now and I hope that my words can capture the moment.
They have us guard the day and time of our loved ones arrivals very carefully as there will be a whole plane of Navy personnel on it and they want to keep them all safe from those who would like to hurt them. Those who live on my street knew and were able to get excited for us as they are fellow military, but I didn't even really let family know. I just told them a time frame. As it got closer to his homecoming they began to let us know the approximate time on the day that he would arrive. I was a bit of a negative Nelly when I heard it was 10 p.m. as this did not fit in with my image of our reuniting. I had this beautiful picture of a sunny, cloudless afternoon where the kids are well rested and I am looking my best. Then I would whip out my camera and capture in slow motion the boys leaping into Ben's arms and it would such a stellar shot that I would blow it up and hang it on the wall. Lets admit it, I thought I would win prizes for this picture. :) So this 10 p.m. business did not cut it in my plan. But then it got even later. The day of his arrival we heard that it was going to be a 3:20 a.m. but they recommend getting there an hour early. Sheesh, I thought, reality is not quite the dream I wanted.
Finally it hit me that WHAT I was fussing about and I remembered that this 3:20 a.m. arrival brought home my Ben. And as I have friends all up and down this street who still don't have their husbands home, I knew I needed to embrace the moment. As the principal of Leppard elementary I declared it a holiday. We did no school other than to meet up at lunch with our fellow home schoolers. The boys and I went out to breakfast and talked about what we were most excited to show Daddy. Yared wanted to show him his room and how big he had gotten. Nati wanted to show Daddy, "Just my cute face." I just wanted to have my friend back to share my days with.
After breakfast we hit the store to stock up on all Dad's favorite goodies, especially cereal. We then came home and the boys painted homecoming signs. We had already done Mom approved ones for the house and yard but these were little signs that that they got to make all on their own. I find that I am a control freak with art projects and want it done my way so it was a big leap for me to dish out paint and let them go at it. Nati needed helping knowing what letters to put where but Yared's sign was all his own. I recruited the little men for a house cleaning. This kind of makes me smile as the house wasn't dirty and I know Ben wouldn't really notice anyways. However, he hasn't been in this house with us but one night before he deployed so I wanted him to come home to a perfect home. The boys were great at cleaning and just let me in on a way to make cleaning go WAY faster in the future.
The interesting thing about Yared and I is we experience life very similarly. I found myself all week kind of irritable and stressed. I was very excited to have Ben on his way home but maybe the thought of change or the unknown made me grumpy and short with the boys. Yared also got like this especially on Friday. We are so much alike it is strange that he is my adopted son. Later as we were talking he told me he felt nervous to have Daddy come home. He was excited but he was able to realize the huge event that was happening and it made him nervous. Nati of course jumped on board and said he felt "nervooos" too.
Finally the yard was decorated, the house was clean and it was bed time. I had the boys in warm pjs and hats and coats ready to slip on. I loaded up the van with a stroller, signs, flags, water, snacks and a movie. I tried to sleep a few hours but it felt like I had just gone to sleep when my alarm went off. I was so worried I wouldn't hear the alarm that it wasn't a great two hours. I got up and tried to make myself look nice for the big welcome home. Realistically it was dark and cold so Ben wouldn't really see what I looked like and I am often cold anyway so I had on layers of clothes and looked like snowman. My eyes were so exhausted that I was forced to where my dreaded glasses. BUT... as soon as I woke the boys up to get in the van the fun began. It went from a nervous tiring night to a wonderful magical adventure.
Yared woke up with a huge grin on his face and even Nati was thrilled to be woken up in the middle of the night. We bundled up and started the 20 minute drive to where we were going. We followed the crowd to a parking lot across from the airfield. But then I didn't want to get out of the van and walk over to stand in the cold as we still had an hour until scheduled arrival. I called someone who would know more and now the flight wasn't due until 4:15. As I sat there I saw a friend walk by with her son. He jumped in the van and started watching movies with the boys. This made the night even more exciting as we were with a friend and could chat and join in the anticipation together. Finally at 3:30 we decided to walk across and join the crowds just in case anything happened.
There were big white buses for the troops who didn't have a ride to base. This made me feel sad that someone would come home from being gone so long and walk past crowds of people waving to loved ones and have no one call their name or give them a hug. Right at the fence where we gathered was the Red Cross. They were out there on this cold wet night to serve snacks and hot drinks. There was another group handing out small American flags, flowers and flashing necklaces for the kids. You could sense the excitement in the air. Nati was bundled up in the stroller but Yared pushed his way to the front with his friend and found a crate or bundle of sorts to sit on. They had a group of vets there with large American flags. They form a tunnel of sorts with their flags for the men and women to walk through on their way off the airstrip and out to where family is. It got so misty that at times we had to pull out umbrellas. I had to smile at some of the younger ones who were dressed in tank tops, t-shirts, or thin dresses to look nice for the boyfriends or husbands. One was sneezing her head off. I guess the advantage of being old is knowing you can look good even covered up. After about 40 minutes you heard a small murmur in the crowd and it rose to a joyful yell.
There in the mist and darkness was a small glowing light getting bigger and brighter. We all knew it was our plane. The boys were yelling with the best of them. Nati jumped out of the stroller and had to be held. He grabbed two flags and was waving them so dramatically that a group of uniformed military nearby were quite taken with his response. He was screaming over and over, "I see Daddy's plane. I see it Mom. Yeahhhhhhhh" His whole body was shaking and he was kicking his legs. Then he would stop and hug me tight and start it all over again. I really hadn't expected this response in the middle of the night as he is my moody one and needs his sleep. Yared was up at the fence with is friend yelling and telling me all he saw. The screaming would die down only to rise up again as the plane landed or taxied closer or the door opened. The ladies next to me had tears in their eyes and this got me going a bit. I started looking at those all around me. There were the teenagers jumping around with their phones as their Dad's texted them where they were on the plane. There were the older parents there to great their son or daughter, looking weary but pleased. There were the mothers holding babies that had been born while the dad was gone. There was the occasional young guy with a sign and a flower for his girlfriend or wife. I had painted a sign for our battalion that said, "No longer blue now that we have you." Nati must have remembered this as he says to me, "Mommy, now we aren't blue." It took me a second to get what he was saying. Then he asks, "What color we are now?" I asked what he wanted to be and he said red. So we are now red with happiness.
It might have been dark and cold and wet and hard to see but it was a wonderful moment. Then the doors opened on the plane and sea of camouflaged men and women flowed down the stairs, trudged across the tarmac and finally walked through the flag tunnel to a crowd of people all looking for the one they had ached for all along. I saw a Dad hold his new little baby girl up to his face and close his eyes as he breathed in the smell of his new little girl. He had never held her before and she was only about two months old. It was beautiful and still brings tears to my eyes thinking of it. There were about three hundred on the flight so I had about 15 minutes to watch the rejoining of families and friends. I was actually really glad Ben was one of the last to leave the plane as I got to witness so much joy all around me. One by one a man or woman would walk through the people and meet up with someone calling their name. Small children were either staring in shock at the person holding them or they would be clinging joyfully to that person's neck. As people were reunited they would begin to walk way. It cleared out and soon our friends were gone and we were standing in the now thin crowd. Then I heard the boys yell, and there was our Ben. The same walk, same smile, same wave as he wound his way towards us. It is strange that you forget small things about someone when they have been gone this long but the minute your eyes rest on them this feeling of peace comes back as you soak in the familiarity that you had forgotten. The boys grabbed their signs and waved like mad. I was able to capture a picture of them hugging Dad and him holding them close. Nati was so excited he just giggled as he kept hugging him. Yared held on for a long moment and quietly kept a tight hold on his Dad's hand. They did let me hug and kiss him too:). It is amazing that after 7 months all is well just to be reunited again. As we walked through the dark parking lot to our van it felt right to see Ben and Yared walking ahead followed by me and Nati. This is how we usually walked places before. I once again felt sad to see the now full white buses with tired faces waiting to be taken back to base. I wish they call could have had a loved one there to jump and clap and hug them.
I for one am so grateful that I got to be there in person this time to experience Ben's home coming. We have another deployment coming up in a year and I hope it is our last. Maybe this time I will get that perfect sunny day picture of Ben and the boys first hug as they are reunited. But for now, I have a beautiful memory of a dark, damp, middle of the night image of two small boys and a tired mom holding tight to the one they missed more than they even knew.
Thanks for all your prayers and encouragement through this deployment. To those of you who have thanked and supported Ben for serving America, please know that means a lot. Thanks to my family and friends for making this deployment bearable. Thanks to Jesus for keeping Ben safe, for never leaving either of us:) and for bringing us back together once again.
Here are some pictures of our adventure but they are in backwards order:).
|Waiting for Daddy to get off the plane.|
|The first wave of weary Navy Seabees.|
|Waiting in the cold.|
|The signs on the grass and house wall saying welcome home with a leopard theme.. something I never thought I would do.|
|Mrs. Olson's Coffee Hut for breakfast.|
|This guy loves a cooked breakfast.|