Continued from Part 2...
After the holidays, time continued to pass, and Matt’s return grew closer and closer. I wish I could say that those months were filled with times valuably used and dedicated to what God had for me. But in my survival mode, there was no room for that. I could only go through the motions – get up, go to work, come home, go to sleep, and start again the next day. I still did my quiet time, still prayed, still went to church, but I wasn’t all there. You know that quote, “Wherever you are, be all there.” I did not heed that wisdom. I foolishly thought that if I didn’t enjoy myself too much, if I kept missing Matt until it hurt, I wouldn’t ever get comfortable with him being gone. I don’t think God ever wanted me to be happy that Matt was gone, but I am sure that He wanted more for me in this deployment. I just refused to listen and obey. I was too consumed with despair and loneliness to see beyond myself. I did not give myself wholly to God, letting Him use me in unique ways that could only happen while my husband was gone. It was a wasted opportunity. Instead of thriving, I just barely hung on.
Regardless of the way I handled the deployment, Matt’s return was no less thrilling. As the days got closer to his arrival, I grew more and more excited. See, I am the type of person who thrives on anticipation. Unfortunately, the Army doesn’t always cooperate with me. Despite my persistent questions, Matt could never tell me the exact day he would come home. He simply did not, and would not know until a few days before. I did not let this stop my planning. I had an approximate time frame and would work with what I got. I began shopping for the perfect “welcome home” outfit, ordered a sign to hang outside, and began prepping lesson plans for the days I would take off of work.
The excitement on my wedding day couldn’t compare to the excitement I experienced on that day in April when I walked to Newman Gym for the Welcome Home ceremony of 1-3 BTB. Although it was drizzling outside, nothing could dampen my spirits. My neighbor who had become a good friend throughout the deployment graciously agreed to come with me and take pictures of our sweet reunion. Sitting in those bleachers, anxious for the doors to open, and the troops to march in formation across the floor, I was very thankful for her company. The frenzy of excitement around me was deafening. Balloons were waving, signs were hoisted, air horns were buzzing, people were laughing, and children were antsy. The announcer finally gave the word that the buses had arrived – those same white buses that had taken my husband away were now bringing him home! Our family members would soon be within arms’ reach! I didn’t know whether to jump up and down or dissolve in tears. The weight of the world on my shoulders was slowly dissipating. No longer would I be solely responsible if anything went wrong. When something bad happened, there would be two of us to shoulder the burden and discuss the options. Life would be shared between two people, husband and wife, the way God intended. Sweet relief would soon be mine!
Seconds later, the doors opened and soldiers began marching into the gymnasium. My eyes frantically scanned the rows, searching for my wonderful redhead. Soon the marching stopped as the announcer introduced the garrison commander. We sang the National Anthem (trust me, it was never sung more passionately), the commander spoke a few “job well done” and “welcome home” words. Then the moment we’d all been waiting for – “go find your soldier!”
People rushed out of the stands. I joined the dash and ran out to find Matt. We had set up a meeting point, but that was when the ceremony was going to be outside – before the rain. However, a few minutes of searching ended in a sweet embrace as my husband called my name and slid his arms around me. We kissed and hugged, smiling until our faces hurt. My kind friend snapped a few pictures of us – the happy couple – and sneaked away so we could enjoy time alone, with several hundred other reunited families.
We walked out of the gym and over to the tents to find his bags. All the while, we never let go of each other’s hand. Once he found his duffels and shouldered his ruck, we walked across the street to our home. Absolutely nothing compares to that feeling of wholeness, knowing that we were together again. Words cannot accurately describe the ecstasy, fulfillment, peace, and relief that filled our hearts. My husband was home for GOOD! This was one season I was so very happy to see ending.