After nearly a week of weather delays, Joel came safely home on Saturday, February 5 at about 5:10am. A sweet friend stayed at our home so I could be at the hangar about 2:30 for the 4:30 flight. It was quite cold and there was misty rain but exciting nonetheless! I waited with a friend from the company who's husband was also on the flight. And we trekked out onto the flight line twice before the plane landed:). This time was a bit different then last time out there only because there were 2 Lifetime crews there following 2 families for a special featuring families experiencing their redeployment. It was hilarious because they were all dressed weather inappropriate and some of them didn't have much of a choice because appropriate attire would have interfered with their job:).
As we watched the guys de-board and walk past the family area (we're fenced in but allowed to watch them...no touching!) Joel again missed me completely but I thought he was playing it cool! The guys dropped their sensitive items (they carry rifles, etc... on their person off the plane to turn into their unit) on a tarp and got ready to form up to make their entrance into the hangar.
We all made our way back inside and waited for the ceremony to begin. No matter how many times you experience it, a Welcome Home ceremony is a really beautiful thing sight to behold. The excitement is palpable. Pretty much anyone you know at all is visibly excited for you and generally makes a point to tell you so. The soldiers pretty much all look exhausted and SO ready to have a break from redeployment drudgery for a few moments BUT, they are also brimming with anticipation.
The guys marched in and the general made some remarks, we sang some Army songs and then we had 15 minutes for, the colloquially termed, Hug-a-thon:). Joel always feels more comfortable to embrace then I remembered, with a deeper voice than I recalled, and a smile that actually makes an audible noise (I promise). Thankfully since our R&R was so recent, he did not appear to be a figment of my imagination! The family time ended quickly and it was time to part.
Soldiers loaded onto buses and families too. I went back to my car and made my way to the hangar where our brigade's soldiers would be transported after their paperwork and sensitive items were taken care of. Thankfully our brigade did a rocking job for this deployment's redeployment! We were in a hangar, not a tent, and our soldiers made it to the hangar lickedy- split! Of course, their bags got mixed with the other brigade on the flight so we waited an extra hour to no avail for bags. But even then, they did an awesome job. Joel finally got his bags 2 days later and his 7 day reintegration has been humming along since Sunday morning.
Joel & I arrived at home just a few minutes after Ethan woke up. As promised, Ethan had breakfast with Daddy:).
A sweet moment captured between my guys. A restaurant burger was amongst one of Joel's requests. It did not disappoint:)
It has not yet sunk in that this deployment is actually over. I'm not sure when it will. Amazingly it has already been a sufficient length of time for me to be thankful for the works the Lord has done in our family throughout this deployment. I'm thankful for the supernatural way in which the Lord of all bound us together regardless of time or distance. I'm thankful that we will have the opportunity to get away as a family and visit family and friends.
I'm just plain thankful.
Now to him who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us, to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, for ever and ever! Amen. -Ephesians 3:20-21 (NIV)