Add this to section of your website

A Homecoming We’ll Never Forget

I held him tight. I thought perhaps the tighter and longer I held him, it would create muscle memory for me to run to when I needed it for next nine months of separation until we would reach that beautiful homecoming.

But I couldn’t think of the happy times right then. My eyes landed on families, children, husbands, and wives all around me wiping tears and giving their service member a last hug goodbye.

Saying goodbye

Saying “see ya later” at the deployment send-offs are simply the worst. It’s another hurry-up-and-wait occasion that we as military families have become all too familiar with; however, this particular hurry-up-and-wait is brutal. Like pulling a bandaid off, please make it quick and easy and as painless as possible.

But on this particular hot, August morning in North Carolina, hundreds of us were led into a large aircraft hangar with cold metal chairs to sit on as we spent a few more hours with our loved one before the big white buses departed for the airfield.

For this deployment, we decided that grandparents would stay with the kids, and I would go by myself for the sendoff. The kids were a bit older at 8- and 5-years-old, with a better understanding of what Daddy’s job was and the danger involved.

This goodbye was hard.

I hoped having grandparents would provide a needed distraction, and for the most part, it did.

A few weeks into this nine-month deployment, we got into a groove. I made it my mission to plan play dates, trips to visit family (who were a four-hour drive away), spontaneous “fun mom” things like ice cream for dinner, surprise trips to Monkey Joe’s (an indoor inflatable park), campouts in the living room with movies and popcorn, and whatever else I could think of that would keep life as fun as possible without Daddy.

My husband is Mr. Fun himself, so I had big shoes to fill. I soon realized I’d never fill those shoes, and it wasn’t my job to do so. My job was to love my kids, keep them connected with their daddy as best as I could, and teach them how to best cope and thrive during the deployment.

This was the first deployment that my darling daughter (who was 5 at the time) would understand. And with understanding comes a whole truckload of emotions. She is truly “daddy’s little girl,” and taking her Prince Charming away was devastating. About three weeks into the deployment, during her bedtime prayers, she went from lying down to quickly sitting up with hands on her hips and declared, “Well, I’m just going to pray that Daddy comes home early!”

And that she did.

Every. Single. Night.

A few more weeks passed and she determined that she should be more specific with her nightly request. She decided that she needed her daddy home before Christmas. So her prayers were crafted accordingly.

As I think back to those sweet moments, lying next to her as she prayed, there was such a confident expectation in that little 5-year-old heart. There was no begging, no timid request. She knew what she wanted, and she was approaching the One that could help her, full of faith and expectation.

At this point we were approaching November, about two months into the nine-month deployment, and there I was, cuddled up to my blonde princess listening to her nightly prayers.

“God, I know I told you that I want Daddy home in December, but I really need him home in the beginning of December so he can help Mommy put the tree up and the Christmas lights. Could you please bring him home December first?”


Oh, boy. She’s going for it!

In that moment, a slight panic filled my heart. The chances of this happening were so minute. My baby girl’s heart is going to be crushed if her daddy is not holding her on Dec. 1! But I decided that instead of doubting, I was going to join in this prayer.

Why not?!

My daughter prayed for a Dec. 1 homecoming for two months, and we never knew she'd get her wish.

The praying princess

Thanksgiving was right around the corner, and we had plans to drive to Virginia to be with all of my family. Cousins, aunts, uncles, and grandparents would fill our days and keep our minds off the one we were missing the most.

On Thanksgiving Day, my husband was able to call from afar, so I escaped and hid in a small bedroom, hoping to hear him despite the loud adult chatter and full-bellied kids racing through the house.

Oh, how I needed to hear his voice. Even though I was surrounded by family, I still felt that emptiness without him there.

He only had a few minutes to talk, but what he told me sent butterflies to my stomach and a smile to my face.

“There’s a really good chance I might be coming home earlier than expected—possibly as early as December.”

I wanted so badly in that moment to burst out of that bedroom, raise my arms, in true Sound of Music fashion, and shout from the mountaintops what he had just told me.

But I knew better.

I know how things change—once, twice—a million times in military life. I held that secret close and prayed along with my daughter’s nightly prayers with even more fervor.


Those 5-year-old prayers for a Dec. 1 return kept coming, and at this point, she got her big brother to pray them, too. This mama’s heart was full as I joined in, hoping and believing we would all be reunited soon. A few days after Thanksgiving, my husband called again and confirmed he was returning early. He said his plane would depart Nov. 29, and there would be a few stops, so if all went well, he would arrive Dec. 1.

Tears welled up in my eyes. Could this really be happening?

The morning of Dec. 1 came. I knew he was in-route, and I needed every ounce of self-control not to burst with excitement. The arrival time was going to be late that evening or possibly early Dec. 2.  You know what I was rooting for! I hadn’t told my children anything. I decided that if I was ever going to surprise the kids with a deployment homecoming, this was it!

I came up with a plan.

“Fun Mom” was going to make an appearance that evening.

I piled the kids into the van at 9:30 p.m.—way past their bedtime—and told them we were going to get McDonald’s chocolate fudge sundaes. My son looked at me, half excited and half perplexed. “Mommy you never let us have sweets this late!”

“Oh, son, you are so right,” I thought to myself, “but I need to keep you and your sister awake for what might be a pretty exciting night!”

I anxiously kept looking at my watch, while sitting in the van, in the dark, in the random McDonald’s parking lot.

“After you guys finish up your sundaes, let’s drive to the airfield. I heard there were some big Air Force planes landing tonight, and I thought it’d be fun to go watch them!” We’d been learning a little about aviation in homeschooling, so I hoped that wouldn’t sound too far-fetched! As I peeked in the rearview mirror at their sugared-up faces focused on scraping up the lasts bit of sweet goodness, it appeared they took the bait.

We arrived at the airfield and walked into the hangar, filled with loud music, food, families, and various “welcome home” signs. I watched my son’s eyes as they darted all over the room. Then his eyes filled with tears, and he looked up at me. “Mommy, did you bring us here to watch other kid’s daddies come home?”

Oh, my heart!

I hugged him tight, trying to figure out how to get out of this one. I told him that there might be some service members coming back early, but we’d have wait and see who gets off the plane. I could see the wheels turning in his little head. This boy missed his Daddy so much. I was trying to prevent a meltdown but still keep the secret. His anguish was palpable.

Back in his arms!

Finally, the large bay doors opened, the Army band played, and a squadron of camouflaged service members marched in formation to the center of the room.

My eyes were scanning anxiously, searching for the one face I needed to see. The kids were doing the same. None of us could find him. After a brief speech, the commander dismissed the service members and they scattered, eagerly searching for their families. I told the kids to stay put and wait.

A minute, which felt like an hour, went by. Finally, I spotted him! I pointed and told the kids to look, as a familiar face was walking quickly toward us. Their nervous searching melted immediately as they were embraced by their Daddy’s arms, at 11:25 p.m. on Dec. 1—right on time.



Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Mission: Milspouse is a
501(c)3 nonprofit organization.

EIN Number: 88-1604492


P.O. Box 641341
El Paso, TX 79904


Pin It on Pinterest

Verified by ExactMetrics