Homecoming. It’s the simplest of words, but it carries so much weight and meaning. It conjures feelings of excitement, first looks, laughing and tears of immense joy. We see our service member step off a boat, a bus, or a plane and our hearts leap. Our smiles are so wide it hurts, but we don’t care about it because THEY ARE HOME!
Is there is right and a wrong way to do a homecoming? It’s been a hot topic around many internet and spouse sites: What NOT to wear to a homecoming. What NOT to do, say, or put on a sign. The debate about public homecomings has been sparking a flame. When it happens at an actual, civilian airport instead of a military airfield, many bystanders can’t help but intrude, giving themselves permission to stop and gawk at some of the most beautiful and intimate moments shared between two people.
However, I just can’t imagine that in the passion, any of us care about any of that.
I waited, patiently, for my husband to come home. I pushed through weeks of not hearing from him, months of uncertainty, changing dates, the rumor mill and the final count down to see him step off of a bus, onto US soil, and into my arms.
I stood in a crowd, snapping pictures of my fellow spouses as we waited. We were on time, but the bus was not. So we waited, we paced, we laughed, we wrung our hands with anxiety… and finally, we cheered.
It never once occurred to me to have a banner made; to buy a special outfit or do anything other than just to be there. It never occurred to me to decorate our hotel room or buy gifts. It never occurred to me that someone might tell me that wearing a spaghetti strapped tank top and shorts on a hot September day is NOT an acceptable thing to wear.
My husband didn’t care. He stepped off of a bus after 24 hours of travel, after multiple days of not showering, wearing the same stinky clothes he’d left Iraq in and looked into the crowd for his wife. And I froze, staring at him, unsure if it was really him. When I ran into his arms and hugged him, his smell didn’t bother me. My tank top didn’t matter to him. We were together again.
There is no “right” or “wrong” way to do a homecoming. I adore banners, special outfits and decorated living rooms. Next time, I will try to plan ahead. But even if you are standing in the middle of a civilian airport, with onlookers staring into a moment that is so private they feel uncomfortable witnessing it –you won’t care. The world, civilian and military alike, fades away as you hug and cry and laugh and kiss. And that private moment remains just the two of you, alone in a crowd, forever.
When I look at pictures of us on that amazing day, I’m always shocked to see others standing near us. I don’t even remember them being there. And no one from his command had anything to say about the signs that were made, the outfits that were worn, the noise of voices in the crowd, unable to believe the moment was finally there, because they were too busy hugging their spouses too.