As a military spouse, people think I'd know how deployments go when a soldier comes home from their overseas tour. It seems that my norm is when my husband comes home I have been in the 'soon to move' mode or in the active scampering packing and get everything done motion.
As I sit here writing, I'm surrounded by three dogs, mounds of boxes and loose items waiting to have a temporary home in a box. My husband was to leave Afghanistan over a week ago. That was my first expectation to go wrong. His unit waited 5 or 6 days to finally get out of Afghanistan. Of course my nerves and lack of sleep were shot upon our last conversation as I was overwhelmed to coordinate the movers, our storage unit move and drive our girls and dogs seven hours while he's still being debriefed at Fort Dix, N.J.
Early this morning I found out that thank goodness, he made the 19 hour flight with his unit so with any luck he should be home prior to the move. I should know that dates mean nothing in the military.
As the one at home for over a year I think it's easy to have expectations. Things like "I haven't really changed but I'm sure he has," or to think of all of the dreamy things we'll resume doing together and it will be like a second honeymoon. In our situation we now have two newly adopted girls ages 9 and 11 who were adopted three months prior to his departure. That may dampen the honeymoon expectation into more of a fast reality!
I also know little of what happened my husband's Combat Stress Unit over in Afghanistan. He also was shielded from much that happened here at home. Things ranging from a dear friend diagnosed with brain cancer to the car accident I had with a pole in our parking lot that needed some major repairs that I never told him about! Communication is key upon return and timing is everything!
When soldiers come back, I know for me, they often like to have space. We as family and friends want to be around them all of the time, when in reality they need time alone to process being back to a place that is safe and peaceful. There can also be period of guilt for those soldiers that don't come home. Those soldiers who gave the ultimate sacrifice and paid the price of their life for us to live free can result in guilt ridden feelings.
Hypervigilance can be a can be a problem for soldiers especially within the first year of their return. Sleepless nights, not liking to be in crowds, overreacting about seemingly minute things, tempers flare and not realizing anything they are doing is out of the norm. However we do.
I'll never forget that the last time my husband came home. We had taken a weekend trip. I had told him I felt like he was driving too fast. He ignored me and no more than two minutes later, my statement was reinforced by having the blinking lights of a police car confirm my thoughts. Fortunately, the police understood upon military deployments, speeding can be a common factor upon a soldiers return. He looked at my husband sternly in the eyes, saying, "Slow down."
Slow down this weekend. Take a moment to reflect on why we are celebrating Memorial Day. It is due to the sacrifice of these soldiers, men and women who have fought for our freedom. We owe it to all of those who have gone to war and sacrificed for us to have the liberties we do in the U.S.A. to pay tribute to them. When a soldier comes home, give them love, patience and space and expect the unexpected.