Today’s Session Share is a bit different. In honor of Memorial Day and Military Appreciation Day (coming up), Kelsey Erin Photography wanted to share a military homecoming with all of you. Even if you are not military and/or did not grow up military, I’m sure you can understand the strife that military spouses go through during their loved one’s deployment. They wait anxiously for their family member to come home safely. Kelsey, being a military wife too, knows all to well what this is like, which is one the (many) reasons she specializes in military homecoming sessions.
Below is a write up from one of Kelsey’s clients, Bree. She details the emotions that come with the day that her husband returns from another deployment. This isn’t the first time she’s been through this, in fact it’s the forth time.
“22 February 2013 — Seven months. Ask any civilian what it would be like to spend seven months away from her husband, and your conversation may include talk of divorce papers. For a military spouse, however, seven months can be on the short side of a deployment. And, indeed, seven months ago, I was ready to take on the world, stretch my arms wide and embrace this, my family’s fourth, overseas deployment.
Within 48 hours of my husband’s departure, however, everything changed.
The call came at three am. My father, whom I had seen only a week and a half before, was in critical condition in an ICU unit in Massachusetts, 3,000 miles away. My husband, the Logistics Officer for his unit, went to work as planned, spending his last few hours stateside making last-minute preparations for the impending deployment. By 9:30, my father had passed away, and as I scrambled to make arrangements for my mother-in-law to come to California to take care of our children and to get myself home to Massachusetts, my husband scrambled to secure emergency leave and make sure that his unit’s departure wouldn’t be affected.
After the funeral, we returned to the West Coast, thinking my husband would deploy immediately. But as the days turned into weeks, the carefully thought-out plan for my husband to leave, followed by my in-laws a week or so later to help with the transition, began to unravel. It became quickly apparent that my husband would deploy only hours before my in-laws left, and as I returned to an empty home having dropped both my husband and in-laws off, I felt completely drained and empty. Where was that woman so ready to take on the challenges of deployment, who was ready not to count the days, but to make the days count?
The next few months passed slowly. I missed my husband, and I couldn’t turn to my dad, the man I always called to help me fix things or give a few words of encouragement when my husband was deployed. I threw myself, as is my modus operandi, into volunteer work. I planned social events for the spouses in our squadron, and I mentored spouses new to the Corps on how to cope with the challenges of deployment when I was barely keeping a handle on my own. Just when I thought it couldn’t get any worse, I got a phone call from my mother-in-law one day, demanding to know if I had heard from my husband. When my confusion alerted her to the fact that I hadn’t turned on the news or sat down at a computer that day, she filled me in: the base my husband was on had been attacked. Logically, I knew that I WOULDN’T hear from him, and that no news is good news. But show me one military spouse who doesn’t panic, if just for a moment, when that news comes. Finally, a few days later, I got the email that continued my world spinning on its’ axis: “Hey. I’m ok. It was the longest night of my life. I’ll call you when I can.”
After that, I knew I needed help. I knew I couldn’t just continue to plaster a smile on my face and pretend everything was fine when it WASN’T. I started seeing a psychologist once a week, and she helped me work through a lot of my anxiety and grief. Once I learned to cope with the anxiety and process the grief, I was able to strike the needed balance between being both mother and father to my children and both husband and wife to myself. It wasn’t easy, but then, no deployment ever is.
In the weeks leading up to homecoming, I’ve been more emotional than I ever have been at this point in previous deployments. When my husband shipped his foot locker home ahead of him a few weeks ago, seeing it at my doorstep made me burst into tears on the spot. That USO/Jeep commercial “Whole Again” that aired during the Super Bowl? Fuggedaboutit. Even seeing commercial planes landing on base is enough to make me cry.
But it’s not just my husband that I’m missing and wishing was home. It’s the father of my children, the one who can take a pile of Legos and turn it into the Millennium Falcon of my son’s imagination. The one who can simply smile at our daughter and get her to burst into squeals of laughter. When that plane touches down, I’ll be able to breathe again. All the anxiety that’s built up over the past few months will begin to dissipate. The guilt will linger; my inability to build that Lego spaceship, and that time I yelled at my daughter too loudly for slight or imagined transgressions will continue to weigh on my mind. But when he comes home this time, it’s for a long time. Or so I’m told. This IS the Marine Corps, after all. When all is said and done, this deployment will have been the most difficult. The overwhelming sense of relief that will come when those steel-toed boots hit US soil is enough to get me through these last few days, last few hours.
25 February 2013 – I felt like a kid on Christmas morning today. After I put the kids to bed last night, I put in one last-ditch effort to clean up the house before calling it a night and throwing back an Advil PM.
Ian called at midnight, letting me know they had reached their stopover in Alaska, and that everything was looking good for an on-time arrival at 0800. Somehow, I managed to get in a couple more hours of sleep before rousing myself for the day and getting all gussied up.
My intent was to leave the house at quarter of seven, hopefully beating most of the traffic, but, as they often do, the best intentions fall short. And, as I sat in bumper-to-bumper traffic trying to exit the highway to base, I kept having to calm myself down. I received text message after text message from friends, warning me that parking was a nightmare, and, finally, that the plane was due to touch down 20 minutes early. As I accessed base, and gunned it for the flight line (don’t tell the MPs!), I was panicked that I wouldn’t make it on time. I grabbed the first parking space I saw, a good half mile from the terminal, grabbed the kids and RAN. Ultimately, I DID miss the flight landing, but we arrived just as it was taxiing to a stop.
I stopped to catch my breath, and then I couldn’t help myself. The tears came, and so did the relief.
When I saw my Marine for the first time, I broke into the biggest smile of my life. My son, Aaron, all but tackled his father to the ground and it was all I could do to get a hug myself. But none of that mattered. For now, our Marine is home, and we’re going to enjoy every minute of it.”
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I want to thank Ian for his service and the sacrifices he’s made to protect our freedom. I would also like to thank Kelsey, Bree, and Bree’s family for sharing this touching account of what it’s like to be a military wife! Thank you to all of the men and women that serve for our Great Nation!! I know that my words will never be able to adequately express my gratitude. I wave my American flag with pride, and I will never forget those who have paid the ultimate sacrifice to protect our freedom and keep our loved ones safe!