The Deployment Diary

Monday, September 13, 2004

On Day 339 - Wednesday August 18th 2004...

he returned home.

It was the first time in our experience he was ever first in AND first out as in, going advanced party and coming home Advon. Although I was sure there was NO way our luck would be that great, it turned out to be true ;). I finally allowed myself to believe he was really coming home when I got a call from a friend (who has friends in high places lol) saying they had landed in our state and were an hour away. At that moment, I finally started believing that I wouldn't get to the hangar and end up either waiting for hours or end up back home to wait another day for his return.

The last time he deployed to the middle east, it took no less than five weeks of "this week I'll be on a plane home" only to get a call when he should have been on a layover in Germany telling me that instead, he'd never gotten out of the sand. For the first time in our lives, everything worked like clockwork AND they even got in two hours earlier than expected which NEVER happens! Seems one CONUS stop was cancelled, so it knocked an entire two hours off the wait which was extremely welcomed as you can imagine!

The day of, I left three hours early ha! I just couldn't sit here any longer. If I was up and moving - I was fine. If I sat down and had a moment to think, my heart would feel as though it might pound out of my chest. When I stopped at the local gas station to get the babies and I a soda, my phone rang. It was my friend telling me they had landed and were an hour from our installation. Although we were still three hours from reunion, just knowing he was in the same state was such a relief.

I don't even remember the drive to the installation. I do remember at one point thinking about all the drives I had made on this stretch of the interstate alone. How this drive would be the last one I'd make where if something happened, I was on my own with two children. Instead, the cell phone I'd had connected the week before would be in his pocket and if something were to happen from here on out, he was only a phone call away. Just the thought of being able to pick up a phone and CALL HIM had me fighting tears.

I stopped outside the gate and called Mother. I told her he was in the state and we were just hours from seeing one another. She cried on her end and I sat and cried on my end... I made it a point to thank her for being there for me throughout this entire past year. My mother stood by me every step of the way this past year. And, a lot went on outside of him being deployed with my health - and through it all she was the gentle yet strong person I drew a lot of my own strength from during it all. She of course said I didn't have to thank her, it's what Mothers do. However, I know not all Mothers are like mine and no matter how often we've had our disagreements in the past - the older I get the more I appreciate her. She deserves much more than a tearful thank you over the phone, but I'm hopeful to have ample opportunities in the future to do for her as much as she's done for me throughout my life.

I hung up the phone and proceeded to the gate. It was hotter than heck out and I had a long red dress on - a summery/casual sleeveless jumper type dress with a white shirt on under it and sandals. Out of all my trips on post, of course this would be the ONE time I have to be targeted for my vehicle to be searched lol. The gate guards were very sweet and I explained I was on my way to FINALLY see my husband after a year and didn't really relish in the idea of getting grease on my dress. There was something about them not being able to open the hood of the car and I would have to do it. When I explained, they got the hood unlatched for me so I didn't have to reach in there and then I just had to lift it up while they looked. After that, we were back on schedule.

We hit the PX and walked around for a while. We drove around base for a while to waste time. My friend with the connections had told me the "password" to get in the hangar early if I wanted to go early - so we headed over about an hour prior to the time of the ceremony. People were already there, so we had no troubles going straight in and getting a good seat. The few days before, it had been cool here - really felt like fall. That day, it had shot back up to the 100 degree mark and there wasn't a fan in that hangar lol. Darn hot to say the least lol.

To my surprise, the time went by so quickly and before I knew it, my husband's best friend's wife arrived. I'd saved her and her son a seat. Right on time, the ceremony started. They announced, "The advanced party of (insert brigade info) Combat Team - we welcome you home!!!" We all jumped to our feet as about 100 soldiers in DCUs started marching in. I saw my husband the second he entered the hangar. It's as if God played a hand in the entire day because we were on the second row of chairs and both my husband and his best friend were the front row in formation and right in front of us practically.

I could see the tears well up in his eyes when he saw our babies - they had grown so much in a year. Our daughter who had done so well throughout the entire year finally let go as we waited for the crowd to settle down and the COL to give a short speech - she cried. No, she sat down and sobbed with her face in her hands. Of course, that got my tears flowing.

Thankfully, after the National Anthem, God Bless the USA, a short prayer and then a short speech, the COL said, "And now what you've all been waiting to hear....DISMISSED!!!" Before I knew it dh had made his way through a group of folks and picked me up. He held me so tight I couldn't breathe, yet for the first time in a year I felt as though I could finally breathe.....

We made our way through the crowd after a few photos and got in the car to come home. As odd as it was, when I started the car, SheDaisy's song "Come Home Soon" was the song playing on the radio. I couldn't count the times I'd heard it while finishing our bedroom before he came home and it felt so wonderful...him actually being in the car with us while the song played. Yes, of course the tears rolled down my cheeks on that one too ;).

The afternoon was spent showing him the house and what all was finished (and not finished lol) and just spending time together as a family. He was most impressed with the dining room (LOVES the plate rail and wainscoting), but ended up loving the color of the bedroom too thankfully. He took a shower and found the new clothes I'd bought him. He decided he'd like to go out to eat, so that's what we did. The first afternoon just seemed to speed by and before we knew it, bath time for the babies and their bed time was here.

After we put them to bed, we sat down in the living room. I had truly thought after a year, those first hours together would be a bit odd in some way. Maybe it would take us a few days to feel normal again or a few days to feel as though normal was him here instead of normal being us living alone. However, we sat there in the living room and looked at each other for a few minutes not saying anything. I said, "You know, I thought this would feel like a dream - having you here, seeing you in the house again - being able to kiss you and hug you. The odd thing is, it feels like the year was a dream. It's like you've been in the field for a month or something - there's nothing odd feeling. There's nothing odd, nothing feels uncomfortable. I KNOW there is a year gone, but it doesn't feel like it now that you are here. It seems like it was just yesterday I was sitting in the foyer sobbing because you'd just left..."

We moved the conversation on to the porch and spent the next hour talking about how everything felt so normal. I worried maybe our son would be a bit standoff-ish. He'd only been two when Daddy left and unlike our daughter, he didn't have a lot of his own memories - he had a lot of memories from listening to us talk about Daddy while he was gone. Our son was (and is) stuck to Daddy like glue though. Our daughter is a Daddy's girl and always has been. Other than the tears during the ceremony and some tears on the way home that day, she too is stuck to Daddy. The three of us had built such a bond during this past year and I worried how dh would fit into that, but heck - they just dumped me no problem LMBO! It's as it always has been - Daddy's the man and Mommy is the Enforcer lol!

He's not gotten leave yet of course, but if Daddy is home, both children are where Daddy is and doing what Daddy is doing ;). This morning he had to go in early so he was gone before the babies got up for breakfast. Our son started the morning out with tears - he missed Daddy. Daughter was down in the mouth through breakfast and had little to say which is not like her in the mornings lol. Before we left for school though, the phone rang. Daddy wanted to tell them both good morning and tell daughter to have a good day at school since she wasn't awake when he left. Immediately, the mood of both of them improved. It's those types of things where I see the impact of the deployment - tears when prior to this, Daddy leaving before them getting up was no big deal. Now, it's as if a little bit of fear creeps in and they have to be reminded that Daddy will be home for supper even though they know he will. Other than that, I'd say our family isn't having any issues getting back into the swing of things. It's almost eerie how it's as if there wasn't a year of our lives spent apart from one another...

For my husband, he's had no problems getting back into normal life. I'd read online (and from my friend concerning her husband) about soldiers having problems with anger or having problems in crowds or while driving - or a million other things. For my husband though, he's the same person he's always been. There are things he hasn't talked a lot about and that's fine with me. I would never push him for info and I know when he's ready to talk he will and if he's never ready, I can respect that.

He's yet to mourn the loss of two of his good friends (in my opinion). He was suppose to go with one of his buddies and visit his closest's friend's grave that first week he was home, but he's never said if they went or not. And, I won't be asking him. He will tell me when he's ready. He had asked me to get a bracelet made with his friend's name, their unit info and the day he died while he was still in Iraq. I had it waiting on him when he got home and he asked me for it not long after we got to the house that first afternoon. Since I handed it to him, he's worn it and I figure he will continue to wear it in honor of his friend for years to come.

I now know during his year in Iraq, my husband was awarded a Bronze Star. According to my husband, it's no big deal. And, I'm not quite sure of the circumstances surrounding it, but I don't need to know in order to be proud of him - and I've never been more proud of anyone in my life. I had the opportunity to read some of his NCOERs that were done while he was over there and I was speechless. I'm so in awe of this man and what he has done and has accomplished this past year - and in his entire life. I've always considered myself to be blessed to be his wife, but these days I sit and know that I've yet to do anything to be truly deserving of that blessing. I'll never fully understand what he sees in me - why he loves me like he does. I just know I'm so thankful he does and I'm so blessed to be loved by him. He's always meant everything to me - from the day I met him on a blind date - to the days of sitting here trembling in fear screaming to God in my heart to please not let him be one of the dead the news was reporting.

As for me, I've had more trouble getting back into normal life than anyone in our family. Even with all the tears I cried while he was gone, all the worrying and everything else that goes with having a loved one in combat - I'm still trying to pick up the pieces and move on. I'm just finding it harder than I thought it would be. It seems like everything that I stuffed through the entire year is slowly coming to the surface now. He's been home almost a month and I still catch myself waking up in a jolt in the middle of the night like he was still over there and thinking, "What time is it there? What time is it now? What has the news reported since the last time I checked??" Then realizing that he's home and he's sleeping right there next to me - and I can go back to sleep and REALLY sleep....

I find I react to things differently too. Things that would have never worried me before this past year can send me into a panic. One example is the afternoon he went to test drive a truck. We'd driven down to the dealership and he'd gotten in a truck to go test drive it. I'd stayed in our car with the babies and moved the car to the front of the dealership to wait on him. We are bad about trading in cars every few years, so we've done this plenty of times lol. This certainly wasn't the first time one of us had waited with the babies (so we don't have to undo carseats) while the other test drove a vehicle.

Well, time went by and he wasn't back from the test drive. We got to twenty minutes of him still being gone and our daughter said, "Daddy sure has been gone a long time." The longer he was gone, the more worried I got. It completely consumed me to where I was fighting tears while I watched for the truck to come down the road.

About the time I was about to get myself and the babies out of the car and go look for the salesman, husband opened up the passenger door of our car and said he was sorry it was taking so long. The salesman was printing off the invoice so we could take it home to look at. I told him I didn't realize he was back and thought he was still test driving and I was worried. He said he'd waved when he drove past us when he got back from the test drive and thought we saw him. I'd gotten myself so worked up, I broke down and sobbed right there in front of him and God and the world - like a moron. Husband felt so bad that he'd worried me like that and I felt like a big old dork for crying and worrying over him TEST DRIVING a darn truck...

It's things like that where my reactions are not fitting to the situation. Before, I would have figured he decided to get on the interstate and try it out. Now, I worry that he's had a wreck and he's hurt - and I don't know where he is and it is shear terror as if he were still sitting in that God awful town in Iraq he called home for a year. It's as if I'm having trouble turning off the constant worry. It's better now than it was when he first got home, but I'm still finding myself becoming overwhelmed by emotions that aren't fitting to a particular situation. Sort of like I'm still trying to get my heart and mind to understand that I don't have to live in constant fear anymore. Or maybe it's some deep seeded fear that if I stop worrying now that he's home and safe - NOW something will happen... Heck, I don't know, but I do know it's been harder than I ever thought it would be to get out of that mindset of fear. I guess it just shows the differences between my husband and I. He's the one that lived in danger in that hell hole for a year and I'm the one having the trouble getting back to normal. He's the strong one of our relationship and I'm the weak one for sure...

Thankfully, he's very understanding about it all and doesn't mind that I cry easily and often these days lol. He says you can't go from living in a constant state of worry and fear and just shut it off - and I guess he's right. I thought I was pretty good about not holding a lot of things in while he was gone, but I'm realizing now that I held in a lot more than I thought I did. I'm hoping that most of it has come to the surface now and I'm done with the crying over the fact his blue jeans are in the wash and I actually get to fold them for him ;).

It's just such a relief to have him home. Thank you all for the prayers and kind words throughout this past year - and a special thank you to my friends who held me up on the days I couldn't stand alone. I love you and hope to spend a lifetime being half the friend to you that you've been to me.

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