Behind The Scenes: Reality of Military Homecoming
If you’ve ever been to a military homecoming the anxiety can be felt all throughout the air. There’s typically hundreds of spouses, children, parents and friends all huddled into a ‘waiting area.’ I don’t think I’ve ever been around that many people at one time and seemingly completely ignored them.
There’s this odd calm and anxious-ness that’s just understood and respected. In a way, it’s eerie. In another way, it shows you what really is behind those heartfelt photos and videos; an anxious family/friend awaiting their loved one’s return.
But what else actually happens at a homecoming? Is it as magical as it seems on the photos and videos?
Yes and no.
You don’t want to hear it, but you need to.
Just Like the Movies, or not?
Yes, it is so magical to put your hands on your loved one for the first time in months. Yes, you do get butterflies causing that anxious feeling inside of you. Yes, you do hold your breath as you see seemingly identical Marines (or service members) walking towards you that you panic when you realize you can’t tell your spouse from the others yet.
However, it’s not just butterflies in your stomach. I’ll be honest. I told my husband I wasn’t sure if I was going to hug/kiss him or not. I kept telling him I don’t know how I’m going to react. I honestly didn’t. Even as he was walking towards me I was still uncertain on how to feel.
On one hand, I have my loved one home finally and I should be elated, right? On the other hand, I had the reality of being the solo parent while he was away. This entailed selling a house in one state, buying one in another state, multiple trips (8 hours one way) to move my stuff, disenrolling 4 kids, re-enrolling 4 kids, unpacking a house alone, painting and decorating a house alone, multiple doctors appointments and of course the infamous deployment curse of 5 stitches in Mila’s head. That was just ONE deployment of many!
The infamous quote “I don’t know how you do it.”
I was a hot mess of emotions. I thought I knew what society expected but I just didn’t feel that way in my heart. I was mad. Mad because we had planned on him getting out 2 years after we were married. Mad that I had to keep putting on a smile and laugh when people said “I don’t know how you do it.” Because, honestly, I didn’t WANT to do it. I did it because I HAD to.
Reality isn’t how it seems
So there ya have it, I’ve pulled back the veil of those picturesque moments and I’ve let you in to the not so great reality. I honestly wish more spouses had warned me about this. You almost feel as though you are not allowed to complain or have negative feelings because you’re married to one of the few, the proud, the Marines. They’re a hero by definition in our country so how can you as the spouse not be overly supportive and motivated for them?
Simple. You’re human!
How many people get married with the intent to spend as much time away from each other as possible? Maybe this is why so many military marriages fail, the reality wasn’t clearly stated. You’re seemingly meant to feel shamed if you have any negative thoughts but then that just fosters the feeling of resentment and, when not dealt with, it boils over and causes severe damage to a relationship. (Note: I’m explaining this as a marriage, however, this is the same for all relationships including parent to child, friends, etc.)
Resentment is Toxic to Marriage
I remember the day I told my husband that I was so mad at him and the Marine Corps I was going to burn the Marine Corps flag on our front porch. I didn’t do it, but man did I want to in that moment. I hate feeling like I have to fight for my husband to be here as a father and a spouse. That was in March of 2018. Our son broke his femur and had a massive cyst in his bone. I was on 3 days of no sleep, 2 emergency surgeries, Easter to celebrate with the kids and our sons birthday was in a week.
Some have said I had every right to feel that way. Maybe they’re right. I didn’t want to feel that way though. I kept praying and communicating my concerns and frustrations as a wife and mother to our children. He can’t fix it all and he’s still going to be a Marine first, but at least he HEARS me. He lets me vent and recognizes that sometimes I’m really not mad at him, just mad at the situation.
Perspective is Everything
In that moment (March 2018) when our son broke his femur I wasn’t thinking ‘thank God we have tricare and I don’t have to stress out about his hospital bills he will incur’ because I was too focused on what I didn’t have, my husband. When I sat down and really reflected on it, I realized I wasn’t being fair. Not to myself, not to my husband and not to our kids.
He is a hero. That doesn’t mean he’s not a father nor husband. I have to stop looking at it as one or the other… because it’s all encompassing with him. So while the Marine Corps has a lot of dictation over his days now, in 5 short years we will be free to enjoy his first retirement and hopefully enjoy ourselves with lots of time together versus lots of time apart.
COMMUNICATION IS A NECESSITY
If you’re a military spouse out there and you want to yell or scream at your spouse instead of run and jump into their arms, that’s okay! Talk about it! You can tell me. You can tell your spouse. You can tell your person. You can tell a friend. But tell someone! You do a lot to support the entire family while your spouse is away, so your feelings SHOULD BE validated when you’re overwhelmed, stressed, sad, angry, etc. Just don’t wallow in that mindset. Pick yourself back up and push forward.
A huge tip that I do in my marriage to help with communication is I preface “Please don’t get defensive because I know that will be your first reaction, but I need to say something you probably won’t like.” Does it work every time? Ha, NOPE! In fact, it’s only just recently started ‘working’ because we’ve been working hard as a marriage to strengthen our communication.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE
You’re not alone. You’re allowed to feel whatever emotion you feel in that moment. You have a tribe, even if it’s just me. Scream and shout, curse as much as necessary, cry as ugly of a cry as you need to and then dry the tears and stand back up because YOU ARE WORTHY. YOU ARE STRONG
I strongly encourage you to reach out and help any military families you know, no matter how small the task. Spouses are engrained to handle everything solo and have a hard time asking for help. Don’t take no for an answer and rest assured you will be helping support our troops so much more then you realize!