A little over a year ago I was traveling from Germany (home), to Alabama (Mimi’s house), with my circus of children to visit my family.
After a 5:30 wake-up call, hours standing in line holding my 2 year-old on my right hip while holding the hand of my 4-year-old, an 11-hour fun-filled trip of pull-ups, spilled drinks, Disney movies, color crayons, lost sippy cups, pull-up nightmares, plane-toilet drama, and tears of “joy,” we finally landed in Atlanta, Georgia. We all sighed a deep breath of relief when we made our connection flight to Pensacola, FL.
LAST LEG OF THE TRIP! Can I get an Amen and Hallelujah?
We got on the plane and started to get settled. At this point in the trip, I had stopped making eye contact with any other humans in my vicinity besides the ones who came from my loins. We had been traveling for hours at this point, it was close to 2 a.m. for those of us still on Germany time and we looked and smelled like road kill.
So out came the DVD player, the blankies, the toys, the kitchen sink…(you get the picture) and we tried to love each other through one more flight. After the flight attendant explained the emergency exits and I day dreamed about us all sliding down the big yellow slide that comes out of the side of the plane, the pilot came on the speakers with a special announcement.
“We are honored to be riding with SGT ______, on his final journey home to Pensacola from Afghanistan.”
Mattox immediately pipes up, “Afghanistan!?? That is where my daddy lived! He was there a loooonnnggg time!”
I reassured her that yes, it is the same place and we talked about the amazing memory of the day Jeremy came to us after his final journey home from Afghanistan.
There is nothing like that moment: the moment you have dreamed about, prayed for, played out in your mind a million different times over an entire year of separation– that moment when you are at last together again. I remember well making signs to hold up for him to read. Mattox was about 3.5 years old and she drew a family portrait for Daddy. We looked like hotdogs with worms growing out of our heads, but it was priceless because it showed us holding hands with Jeremy. We hadn’t held those hands in so long. Wee waited in this hot gym, waited and waited for him to come marching in to us. “They” tell you to come at a certain time, but “they” are never sure what time that C17 will actually come rolling down the tarmac.
But then it happens. People start to stir, excitement rolls through the air: THEY are coming! Our boys are home!
He came in first, calling the soldiers to attention and standing with pride and exhaustion ten feet in front of me. The soldiers try so hard to keep their faces still and stoic, but they can hear their babies calling, “DADDYYYYYY” and you see their resolve break. Some have tears coming down their cheeks. Some are smiling. Some are biting the insides of their cheeks. Some are staring at their newborn babies whom they have yet to hold. Then the Colonel says they are released and the sea of people engulfs the heroes.
That memory is playing through my head while we fly across the sky to Pensacola that day. It was a short flight, only 45 minutes and then the landing gear was coming down. As we landed, the pilot made one more announcement.