It’s the moment you wait for-endlessly daydreaming- as the weeks and months of deployment crawl by. It’s the picture-perfect moment that makes all the difficult days worth it.
Today, in celebration of the thousands of military couples who have experienced the joy of
homecoming as the Afghanistan conflict is drawing down, we bring you a handful of beautiful stories among many.
Once upon a time, there was a young Army couple named Sloane and Mason Lewis…
Mason had been courageously serving his country in Afghanistan, while Sloane handled life at home. “For nine, very long months,” she says, Sloane awaited Mason’s safe return while caring for the couple’s 3-year-old and 2-month-old daughters. Lots of long nights, lots of long days spent trying to help the little ones through missing their dad.
Seasons changed. The baby grew. And finally, homecoming day arrived. Sloane and her daughters couldn’t have been more ready. They entered the Fort Carson Special Events Center along with so many other families, all anticipating the emotional reunion ahead.
And then… they waited. And waited. And waited some more.
By the time Sloane and her daughters had been waiting for an hour and a half, the older girl
was “close to hitting the limit of her patience.” That’s when it happened:The fog machines started up, filling the space with a magical air. The thundering sound of Toby Keith’s rousing anthem, “Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue” filled the room. And the doors, thank heaven, finally opened.
“The second they opened the doors and the soldiers came marching in,” Sloane says, her older daughter “was jumping, screaming, cheering, and waving her little flags as hard as
she could! The pure happiness and excitement on her face instantly brought tears to my
eyes (because I wasn’t already crying enough!).”
It was Sloane and Mason’s baby-an 11-month-old who had not seen her Daddy since
she was 2 months old-who first caught sight of Mason “Her little face instantly lit up. It was as if she knew exactly who he was the second she saw him, even though she was so little when he left,” Sloane says. “Her eyes did not leave his face for the rest of the night.
“And of course, my favorite moment was being able to kiss my husband for the first time in months. There are no words to describe the feeling of being able to hold him, knowing he is now here, home, safe with us,” she says. “This was our first homecoming, and it was an amazing experience!
Sloane and Mason were thrilled to share the details of their remarkable homecoming moment. And they’re well aware that so many other military couples are right now awaiting
their own reunions.
“My advice to spouses going to their first homecomings is just to be prepared for the
experience of a lifetime. No matter how much you try not to cry, the tears will just stream down your face whether you realize they are or not,” Sloane says. Any concerns she had melted away when the homecoming moment arrived.
“The second all of the soldiers walked in, it was as if every nervous, scared, worried, part of my body was just gone. Finally seeing your soldier after so long is just indescribable. I hope every military spouse whose soldier is serving overseas gets to experience the magical moment of a Welcome Home Ceremony.”
There are the Funny Homecomings…“My husband deployed in June 2009, and after he left we found out we were expecting,” Shandis Button tells us. “When it came time for him to come home on R&R, our daughter was 4 weeks old.” Shandis had changed her hair color just a few days before her husband’s arrival, “after the period of face-to-face communication was over.”
“My hubby thought I was leaving the baby with a babysitter to pick him up from the airport,” but she had brought her daughter along in a stroller adorned with a “First Time Meeting Daddy” poster. Shandis and the baby sat at the end of the gate, and were thrilled when her husband began walking toward them.
Did he run toward them with tears in his eyes? Well… not at first. “He didn’t recognize me and walked right past. I stood up and he saw us, and ran over to us, grabbed her and gave her the sweetest little kiss. The look on his face was priceless. Everyone surrounding us was clapping and crying. It was romantic for me, because I got to see my hubby fall in love with our daughter.”
The engagement homecomings…
“Almost 14 years ago, I was proposed to in San Diego on the tarmac from the homecoming
fly-in of my husband’s first deployment. I was just so happy and nervous to see him that I
actually forgot to say ‘yes.'”
The Anniversary Homecomings…
“My husband and I were married at 18, and he has been deployed four times. We have now been married 11 years, but on our ninth anniversary, when my husband deployed he had promised me that he would be home in time for our 9th anniversary for R&R. Since we don’t always get to spend our anniversary together this was something special. Well, he didn’t make it home before our anniversary, but I had the best anniversary gift of my husband
returning home for R&R on our anniversary. I don’t think that any gift my husband could give me would ever top that special feeling of seeing him in the airport on our anniversary, just as promised.”
And the “Which Soldier is Mine??” Homecomings…
“Homecoming day of deployment one, we were standing in the hangar watching the guys and gals march from the plane into the hangar with us. The kids and I finally spotted my husband. We waited for what seemed like an eternity for the ceremony to be over.
Then they finally released the soldiers to their loved ones. There was mass chaos and I completely lost it! Tears were flowing, I couldn’t find my soldier! Suddenly someone grabs my shoulder, turns me around and kissed me long and hard! I didn’t have to see who it was, I knew it was him. The greatest moment ever! Now we are on deployment number two and I’m dying for that longawaited kiss that takes my breath away.”