Monday, October 12, 2009

The Re-deployment Ceremony

Recently, another blogger Bethany shared about how anxious she is about waiting for her fiancee to come home.  I was in her shoes only a couple of years ago. Just thinking about her at home, patiently waiting for her man to come back, really pushed me to write about my own experience of my DH's re-deployment*.

At the time, my DH was stationed out of Fort Carson,Colorado; the beautiful and majestic mountain post.  This was his first deployment to Iraq and he was scheduled to come back to the states on the 31st of December**.  I was living in Philadelphia area at the time, finishing up my masters degree, working a part-time job, interning at behavioral/mental clinic, and planning a wedding.  However, I felt that time was just dragging her feet.  I was so excited about seeing my DH for the first time in 9 months but also so nervous about what it would be like to finally have him home.  I wondered what it would be like to hug him and kiss him.  I daydreamed about my outfit and spent hours meticulously planning the perfect one.   When I finally bought my airplane ticket to Colorado, I prayed that his unit would come soon so that I wouldn't miss his re-deployment ceremony or miss him altogether!

I didn't sleep the night before my plane left Philadelphia (it was also a six am flight).  When I finally landed in Colorado, I was greeted by my DH's friend Jon and we left to meet his parents.  Jon was in the same unit as my DH but came in a few days earlier.  His parents were still in town so the four of us went to check in on post around 2:00 PM.

When I stepped into that huge hanger/auditorium/basketball court, I was really jittery! They had put up balloons, a huge American flag on the wall and people were waiting around, excitedly talking to one another.  I walked in a little bit further and came onto a desk.  The person behind the desk asked "What unit is your service member in ma'am?"   At the preciese moment, my mind completely went blank.  I seriously could not remember what unit my DH was in.  I must have given her this weird face because she looked at me with an expression of extreme disappointment and annoyance.  Thankfully, Jon was there, so he answered her question.   However, she told us that my DH's flight had been delayed and that his unit's ceremony would start at 6:00 PM.

So there was nothing much that I could do for the next few hours but wait.  Jon and his parents went to go grab some lunch but I was too nervous to eat.  There was another re-deployment ceremony at 3:00 PM and I wanted to watch it before my DH came (so that I could prepare myself).  I told them that I would save them seats and waved them goodbye.

The first re-deployment ceremony was simple and brief.  Over 200 soldiers stood in front of a large audience longingly waiting for the ceremony to be over so that they could see their families.  I could see little children were crying out when they recognized their father or mother in the sea of faces and family members holding them back until the end.  When the general finally yelled "Dismissed," you saw a flood of soldiers running to be hugged by their loved ones and tears freely flowing down everyone's faces.  Children ran to their parents, yelling "I missed you."  It is honestly a moment that I can never forget.

I tried very hard to keep my tears back as I watched these families being reunited with one another.  Slowly, the families dispersed out of the hanger and I was left alone to wait for the 6:00 ceremony.  Jon and his parents came back to around 5:30 and we sat around waiting for the ceremony to begin.  Twice, someone came up to the podium to apologize for the delay and we did not see our soldiers walking in through the big double doors until 7:30 PM.

I numbly sat through the National Anthem, the speech, the singing of the Army song, waiting for my DH to be released.  Throughout the entire 15 minute ceremony, I searched through every face of the 200+ men and women, trying desperately to find my DH.  When the soldiers were finally dismissed, I was panicked because neither Jon, his parents nor I could find him through the chaos of reuniting families.

About two minutes when by when Jon pointed towards the right side of the hanger and said "Hey! Isn't that him?  He looks tall, dark and Asian!" I turned my head so quickly to the place the he was pointing to that I almost had a severe case of whiplash.  However, the man that Jon was pointing to turned out to be another tall, dark and Asian man (what are the odds?).

Several more minutes went by and finally I spotted my DH in the middle of the hanger; his head was hanging low and he looked very forlorn.  I shoved my video camera into Jon's hand, ran down the bleachers, weaved through a million people,and when I finally reached my soldier, he gave me a surprised look and a great big ole smile as he took me into his arms.

My DH tried to kiss me but I told him that we couldn't because we were being videotaped (I didn't think our parents wanted to see us make out)***.  From the moment I said these words, I began to earnestly cry.  I was so thankful and grateful to God to allowing him to come home safely.  The deployment had really tested the strength of our relationship and taken a toll on both of us but we were finally together again.

*Re-deployment: how stupid is this word?  It's really confusing for civilians and military spouses (like me).  The words makes it sound like you're going to another deployment, not coming back from one.

** My DH's deployment was extended from the original 12 months to a 15 month deployment.  George W. Bush signed a bill that would give soldiers an extra $1000 bucks for each month after their 12 month initial deployment date.  Technically, the military had to pay soldiers the extra money for each DAY that they were on their deployment; so if the soldier came back on the 1st of January the soldiers would be entitled to the extra $1000 bonus. He came home on the 31st of December and not the first of January because the military did not want to pay him an extra $1000. I personally would have given the $3000 back to have my DH come home three months early.

*** I watched the video tape afterwards and you can see me pointing towards Jon and his parents.  This was the moment when I told him that we couldn't just make out because I thought our families + Jon would be grossed out my our intimate moment!


Army Wife In Training said...

I cried like a baby reading this! It makes me so excited to see Jerad! Thanks for writing this :)

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