Homecoming countdown…

We are in the final stages of this second deployment for us and I am seriously starting the countdown….as much as I can publicly of course.

One of the perks (if you can call it that) of deployments is that you get to relive your honeymoon after each one. Really! It’s like having a brand new relationship from the moment you see him on the pier to the weeks later when you have to return to reality and get back on a schedule.

This deployment was different than last though, in many ways.

Two years ago I was in a much different place in my life. I had graduated from college in June and married the love of my life on July 8. Graduation was not to bad – he was not able to be there – they were running drills before the boat deployed, and he was vital apparently. It was quiet, despite the party my parents threw for me. I felt like a big part of me was missing.

Our wedding was supposed to be in the fall; it’s my favorite time of the year. But we could not do it then – he was set to deploy in October. So, we were married in July instead. In the mountains of San Diego, during the middle of the summer – it was surprisingly perfect weather. We were afraid my 80 year old grandma would need her own tent to guard her from the sun, but this ended up being unnecessary. It was a beautiful ceremony (even though we had already been through the JOP, it was special). We both cried – me more than him, and our families tried to blend well.

In August, I landed a job with a non-profit grassroots organizing group that demanded much of my time before deployment. It was subconsciously my way of handling the upcoming deployment. I threw myself into it too – working 60 – 80 hours every week. It was hard work, satisfying too and numbing the obvious pain I would have to be going through.

When he deployed, I took one day off to see him leave – worst decision I had made that day. I stood on the pier as the boat sailed away into the abyss, not to be seen for what seemed like an eternity. The next days at work were sort of a blur, as was the entire six months. Only a few days stand out to me from that time – Thanksgiving day when the boat and their entire fleet was not welcomed in Hong Kong, and we had to go through the holidays without much more than an email from our loved ones and homecoming.

It was a day I would never forget for the anything – the day was perfect. I had gotten up early and had the entire day off work. When I put on the oh-so-becoming “homecoming outfit” I was thrilled. Walking down to the pier to wait with the other families, I could feel the anticipation and excitement everyone shared with me as well. First off the boat was the newest daddy – his baby was born while he was away and the first time they met was on the pier.

Next was the first kiss winner – she won the raffle the family support group has as a fundraiser, to be the first wife to kiss her husband off the boat. I was on the verge of tears when the sailors came off next – they were all dressed to impress in their dress white uniforms. A huge sea of white cam flooding toward the families as we started out way down the pier as well. It was out of no where I felt my husband grab me by the waist and kiss me. It was as perfect as our first kiss from the wedding – the entire world stopped around us and it was just him and I for that moment.

Following the homecoming, I made one of the hardest decisions in my life to that point. My job with the non-profit group was becoming more and more demanding, and they were organizing in key states that were important to the 2008 election. It was a dream – to have an impact on a key state – like Florida. I had to take it. It was to be three months in Florida, without my husband, three weeks after he had gotten back from his deployment. Wow….In a way, I think it was meant to happen – although I volunteered and went willingly to the unofficial lightening capital of the world – it was a way for me to declare my independence. It was not vengeful, and I did not WANT to leave him in the fragile state he was; I wanted to go for me – to prove that I would survive and I was strong enough. And you know what? He welcomed the idea with open arms. He was so supportive of my decision (which didn’t fully develop until he made the immediate decision to support me.) I was not shocked for a minute – that was surprising to me. I think that there are so many men out there who would have put their foot down and said there was no way that their wives would be able to leave them for three months RIGHT after they had been deployed – but I am lucky. I have a husband who supports me in whatever decisions I make – seriously. He respects my need for independence and desire to be just that. I could not have asked for a more supportive reaction from him.

Those three months were trying on my physical and mental strength, trying on my confidence, but never once was is trying on my marriage. We managed to stay just as close as ever during that time – and I even managed to make a friend out of the whole thing too.

One thing I can guarantee for this homecoming, is that I will not be leaving him for work. I am here to stay. Although the experience we had last year was one that I don’t think either of us understood how much it helped us grow in our relationship. He may not have had the true experience I do when he is deployed, but it sure was similar in many ways. He had admittedly a hard time living in our new apartment, alone with just the kitties to talk to at night. I think that was a unique experience he was able to have that many military men do not – a view from the other side, of what many would call the hardest job – that of the families left behind.

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