Daddy’s Deployment Homecoming
We’re a military family. At any time my husband can get orders that can completely uproot our family and force us to move across the country – or even the world. He is regularly gone for days or weeks at a time on short missions and for training. And every few years, it comes time for him to be next in line for a deployment where we won’t see him for 6 months or more.
We found out we were expecting our little lemon last May and Eli deployed to the Middle East at the end of July. My husband is an EOD Tech (bomb squad), so whatever stresses you imagine I would have being a pregnant spouse of a deployed service member… *triple that*. The maternity God’s were on my side though because my pregnancy was a breeze and we were able to communicate far more than planned while he was gone.
Eli wasn’t able to make it back from his deployment in time for Charlotte’s birth. (Read about her birth story here!) His homecoming was a huge deal for our little family. The moment he stepped off of that plane, he would be meeting his daughter for the first time.
When we finally got an arrival date & time (after multiple schedule changes) I booked my favorite photographer. For anyone that has children, I would over and over again recommend getting a professional photographer to get those “first moment” photos. I cannot tell you how often I look back on them just as a reminder as to how incredible that day was for our family.
I got to the airport a few hours early. You never know what kind of hiccups you’ll have when you have a breastfed baby that also needs a diaper change every 20 minutes. Thank the good Lord that I was so punctual. Y’all, getting a newborn through airport security by yourself is ridiculous. I just kept thinking, “Would it kill TSA to help a sister out?” (I have since done this alone and it wasn’t nearly as regrettable. I think I was just a bit hyped up that day.)
I met our photographer at the gate about an hour before Eli’s flight was due to land. His arrival time got delayed due to a mechanical issue with the plane. He was able to text me and let me know he may not make it home for another day or two.
LIKE, COME ON. The frustration was real, guys. The effort. The anticipation. The nerves.
My mild freak-out occurred for no reason. They put him on a new plane and he only arrived about two hours later than anticipated. I didn’t care how long I’d have to sit there with Charlotte that day, as long as he was coming home.
As soon as the plane landed, the photographer placed me and Charli where the lighting would be best. Y’all, when the time came, I didn’t care that she was there. I didn’t care about all of the other people in that terminal. I didn’t even care that I was standing in the most inconvenient spot for anyone actually trying to walk a straight path.
It seemed like he took FOREVER to get off of that plane. And he did. He ended up literally being one of the last few people to walk through the gate. So. Much. Anticipation.
Then that handsome, uniformed man was in sight. As soon as he approached Charli and I there was clapping and cheering. I was so wrapped up in my little world, holding that sweet baby, waiting for him to walk through that gate, that I had completely lost awareness of the hundreds of people around us that stopped dead in their tracks to give us our moment and celebrate our hero returning home.
This is by far my favorite memory of my entire life. The day I became a mother will forever be a day that changed my life for the better, but the second our family became whole in that airport terminal is always going to be my most valued memory.
Any other military families that have small children go through very similar emotions, I’m sure. Your kids getting to see their parent for the first time in months is very emotional. Heck, going without your spouse for that long, then seeing them in person and not via FaceTime can give you all of the feels. Personally, I had butterflies. Happy, nervous butterflies.
I think that when we have to go without something or someone that is so incredibly important to you for a long period of time it allows you to grow. You learn to be confident, independent, and strong as an individual, a spouse, and a parent. Most couples spend so much time together that they don’t realize how dependent they become on that person. (How To Cope When Your Spouse Deploys – coming soon!)
More so, it proves to you how much that person truly means to you. It makes you appreciate every second that they are home, as opposed to a confidential location in a foreign land, so much more than it did before.
If you guys could see how close my husband and daughter are now, you’d think he never missed a moment of her life.
You’re our hero, Daddy.
Charming Charli’s Debut – Grateful Lemon
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Shandra (Nin) Castleberry
When Eli was young he was a little like my 3rd child for awhile, he was always at the house, he went on vacation with us. He was a great kid. I am so so so very proud of the great man, husband and father he has become. My son Allen’s first deployment at the age of 18 was to Turkey for 2 yrs. When he came home it was the greatest feeling ever. Your story was well written and brought tears to my eyes. I wish you guys all the best of luck on your journey as a military family.