Any military family will tell you that homecomings are one of the most exciting events for us. They can be highly publicized by the media or go completely unnoticed by the general public. For those coming home and those who have been waiting none of that really matters. It's that first embrace that holds all the magic in the world. Whether it's an embrace that says “I’d marry you tonight in this bus station if I could” or one that simply means “Let’s go home now,” it will be an embrace that changes your life and shakes your soul.
In a few weeks we will be experiencing another embrace. It’s gotten me to thinking about our past homecomings and how different each one always is. Please join me on this trip down memory lane over the next few weeks.
A WINTER WEDDING...
The story of how G.I. Joe and I ended up in the bus station would take a month long series in itself. But at that very moment the past didn’t matter. The future we had together was all we thought about. It was December 19th, 2005 and we were just 5 days away from being husband and wife. There was a short amount of weeks left before G.I. Joe would be headed to Iraq. We were both only nineteen years old but we knew the dangers that would face us in the coming year. When we began spreading the word that we had decided to get married before he left for Iraq, we experienced quite a backlash from some friends. People often asked me, “Why would you put yourself through this? You know you could end up being a teenage widow?” Of course we both knew that. That is one reason I felt so strongly that we needed to get married that week. Whether we would be married for one month or one lifetime, I needed to marry my best friend. He is my soul mate and if something were to have happened to him over there I wanted to have the peace of mind that we were still bound together as one. I don’t think anyone who hasn’t been in our situation can understand that feeling. Finally people just stopped asking that stuff. Haha…many seemed to just brush it off as “Well, she does things a little ‘differently’ anyways.” All that matters though is that we made it. We threw a beautiful wedding together in less than two months, and I kept my sanity!
Back to the bus station. G.I. Joe had been at pre-deployment training for two months and was scheduled to arrive home a few days ahead of everyone else for Christmas so he could get ready for the wedding. Do I really need to explain how excited I was at this point? I hadn’t seen him since October, there had been all these forces against us but we were getting married anyway. It was the best feeling. I felt like we had already conquered so much together.
Until that day I had no idea that buses are rarely on time. Sitting at the station with Jenn, the wife of my future brother-in-law Bobby, the anticipation started to build. I had jitters like it was our first date again! There were things fluttering in my stomach and I’m almost certain my hands were trembling. Jenn was awesome about trying to keep me from watching the clock. We talked about everything from mundane traffic jams to the extraordinary wedding that would be taking place soon.
I’m not sure I could have handled much more waiting. It was completely dark outside and the station was almost empty. There was a couple of gates he could have come in from so I stood somewhere in the middle of the oversized hallway. A bus pulled up to the last gate. There is no sweeter sight than a soldier in DCU’s stepping off an old bus. He threw his backpack over his shoulder and walked across the bus station with the confidence and composure of a knight. When he smiled at me I wanted to run at him. The knee-high-pointy-toed-high-heeled boots I was wearing wouldn’t allow me to do that though. What I did was more of a power walk meets the shuffle kind of move. Despite my lack of grace we quickly covered the distance between us and I jumped into his arms. At that moment my feet were off the ground and ever since then my head has been in the clouds.
That embrace held the hope of a lifetime spent together as a family. We had no clue what the future would bring for us but at that point it didn’t matter. All we knew was that we would face the future as one. Getting ready for a new chapter in our family life we still feel that way. We still have no clue as to where we are going next, but we have hope that this time we’ll go together.