The homecoming of your soldier is one of the most anticipated events you can imagine. It is more exciting than waiting for Christmas morning as a child. It can also be filled with a little apprehension as you wonder what it will be like to see him again, have him with you in the home, sharing and experiencing life together as a family again. Help start your new chapter together with a special homecoming.
Planning the Homecoming
Homecoming after a long deployment means that there will likely be other people in your soldier’s life who want to be there for his return. Depending upon the size of your family, their proximity to where you will be for the homecoming, and the personal requests of your soldier, your celebration can take on many different looks. Start by asking yourself a few basic questions about the best way for you and your soldier to celebrate his return.
- Does your soldier have family and friends who have requested to attend the homecoming?
- Will the homecoming be too emotional for your children if there are dozens of family and friends wanting to share the time?
- Has your soldier indicated any preferences for his homecoming?
Once you get a sense of everyone’s plans, needs, and expectations, you can consider the following possible scenarios.
Celebrate the homecoming with just you and your children on the immediate day, giving your soldier time to adjust and your children a day or two to have their special time. Then you can host a reunion of sorts, inviting family and friends to a celebration.
Bring as many people to the homecoming as you can find! Sometimes soldiers and their families truly need this immediate togetherness. You can spend a short together at the immediate location, then move to your home or another venue, depending on size.
Surprise your soldier with a fan bus. Arrange to have a bus (or two!) waiting, filled with family and friends. You can all drive together to your celebration, and then have your private homecoming moments the following day.
How to Have an Amazing Homecoming
Whether your family needs or wants a huge party the moment your soldier returns or you prefer to slowly build up to that event, there are several great ways to create a magical and amazing homecoming for your soldier.
Have at least two people appointed as photographers, one for still shots, and the other for videography. These are moments you will cherish and want to be able to see later, as the moment will seem very surreal.
If you’re serving food, consider an “All American” menu of hot dogs, hamburgers and corn on the cob. Add in boxes of Cracker Jacks – you can even use these for centerpieces and party favors for the kids, and some apple pie and colored Jell-O for dessert (red, white, and blue, of course!). If your soldier has some favorite foods, you could always put in requests to family and friends to bring their best recipes. Maybe Aunt Jane makes his favorite cookies, while his mom makes his favorite lasagna. Getting others involved will lessen your workload, help others to feel a special part of the celebration, and serve your soldier his favorite dishes.
Get your community involved. Many neighborhoods or entire towns are more than willing to pull together and join in the celebration. They can line the road and hold flags, tie patriotic ribbons on their mail boxes, or perhaps even gather the local school choir to sing some favorite songs. Local businesses also might be willing to help with the costs of food, transportation, or decorations.
Make matching shirts for you and your family to wear to the homecoming. You can purchase iron transfer sheets at local craft stores and print your family name on them, then apply them to the shirts. Get creative and add a family crest or family pictures. Make sure to make an extra shirt for your soldier!
Maybe you just want to get back that familiar feeling and celebrate at home. Even if it is April, put up a Christmas tree, hang the stockings, and serve some gingerbread cookies. The best present of all will be the return of your soldier.
Photo credit: Jack
You’ve waited months, perhaps more than a year, to welcome your soldier home. You’ve shopped for food to make his favorite meal, arranged for his parents to visit upon his return, and helped the kids make signs welcoming him home. But are you really ready for the return?
Sometimes even after all of those sleeplessness nights, counting days until the return, the homecoming doesn’t always lead to sunshine and rainbows. There is often a honeymoon period when you won’t be able to stop looking at each other, and the kids will be stuck like honey to his side. However, some military families are caught off guard by the feelings of resentment that might emerge, the adjustment to new routines, and the fact that somehow life went on during deployment and not everything is just how it used to be.
Possible Threats to the Honeymoon after Homecoming
Even thinking about the idea that there might be negative emotions upon return from deployment might be more than you want to do. However, preparing for the possibilities will help to diminish the likelihood that these situations will occur, and the effects of them won’t have to be so severe. There are bound to be adjustments that need to be made – start thinking early about how things have changed for you during deployment and what those changes might mean to your soldier.
- The children have an earlier bedtime, necessitated by the fact that you needed an extra 30 minutes alone each night.
- The kids have had one authority figure in their life and aren’t used to the ramifications of two in the house.
- You have developed a new weekend routine. On Saturday the kids do their activities, you spend the afternoon working on projects, and in the evening you hang out with other kids and their moms.
- Your mom spends at least 2 afternoons each week at your house, helping with the kids and household chores.
- The financial planning has been on your plate and you have developed a method to the madness.
- You’ve met new friends and enjoy one evening a month going somewhere special with them as a treat for you.
While all of these scenarios are not necessarily negative ones, the effects they might have on your relationship with your soldier upon his return could become negative if you’re not prepared. Make a realistic assessment of how your relationship looked and worked before deployment and make sure that you don’t just assume that it will continue in the new routines without compromise. Your soldier will be facing his own readjustments so it is imperative that you work together as a team to make the homecoming a long lasting positive experience.
Make sure you communicate regularly about daily life. You might be used to independent living and decision making, but you need to remember to include your soldier in the daily routines.
Be watchful for signs of PTSD in your soldier or other stress related issues. Don’t hesitate to encourage him to seek help or talk with someone yourself. Also keep in mind that you might benefit from sharing with a third party how you are adjusting to life after homecoming.
Be aware of changes in the kids’ behaviors, either increased anxiety over your soldier being gone for even a few minutes, or rebellious behavior that tests the waters. Nip this in the bud and work together with your soldier to form a parenting unit. Don’t let the kids create a great divide between you now that you have just gotten him home.
Soon after homecoming sit down and revisit the responsibility list. Maybe you will continue to mow the lawn now, and he wants to take over weekend cooking for the family. Go over the family calendar and get your soldier up to speed on the activities of everyone and how he can participate and help. Just don’t direct the show – form a team. Whatever your decisions are, work on making them together.
Photo credit: Rachel