I was one of those people who thought that as soon as the soldier got off whatever vehicle transport they came in on, they would be free to go home.
This is a huge misconception. There is a lot more that goes into a homecoming than the banners and hugs.
These are just my observations of the Army and how Ft. Campbell does homecoming. Every branch and post may do their own variation of things.
Bangor, Maine is the first stop in the US for many of our troops. There are a band of greeters who meet the soldiers as they touch US soil for the first time in months. These greeters come to the airport at all hours of the night to welcome home our troops. Tom said this was one of the greatest parts of coming home. It is very touching to watch videos from here.
They can come at all hours of the day. I joked that going to a homecoming ceremony during the day is a myth. I have only been to them in the dead of night. The schedules are also unpredictable. When Tom came home, I feel like they changed the time they were supposed to arrive about every hour that week that they were scheduled home. So there is a lot of waiting.
Once the troops get home they have to line up for a short ceremony.
From here, they are released for about 20 minutes to meet with their family.
These are the moments that are inspiring and the ones to live for.
After this very little time with family and friends, the soldiers line back up to go back to their company areas. The families go to a waiting room or classroom in the company area to wait for an hour or more. During this time you are not allowed to see your soldier. The soldiers are turning in all of their sensitive items, getting housing assignments, and other various administrative tasks. For me this was the longest couple of hours because I knew Tom was right outside but I couldn’t see him.
After they are finally released after what seems like days, then kind of everything is up for grabs.
The soldiers are not allowed to drive for 24 hours that first day, and many of them don’t have cars anyway because they sold them before the deployment. So they have to make plans for that.
The units will have a reintegration class they have to attend every day for the next week. It is a way for them to have some stability and routine when their whole world just changed.
Then there are the personal things that you have to get use to again which can take time depending on the soldier and family they are coming home to.
So there is much more than what you see on TV for homecomings, and it ends up being a long process of reintegrating back into the country. It is a very interesting and wonderful experience, but it was frustrating at first that I couldn’t just keep my soldier to myself.
I would encourage people to go to a homecoming ceremony once in their lifetime. It is very awesome to witness!
Have you been to a homecoming ceremony for any branch? What things did you notice from the experience that I did not mention here?
As a side note, Tom and I are being featured on “Date Night Is” for our date nights. Pretty sweet!