Countdown to Homecoming

Supporting those who fight for our Flag, Motherhood and Apple PieAs of this week, we’re counting down: in less than a month, my son should be on his way out of Afghanistan, on his way home.

I’ve been told the USAF sticks to the schedule pretty rigidly. I’ve been told we can count on this happening plus or minus a few days, depending on transportation, logistics and the weather. We don’t know exactly when or where we’ll meet up.  But we will meet up.  Sometime soon.

This time of year, when you say the word “homecoming” most everyone thinks of football games, kings and queens, parades, chaperones and dances.

But “homecoming” has now taken on the meaning of “After Deployment” for our family.  Having been in the middle of a strange country, our son will have another strange world to navigate. He’ll need to get beyond the experiences of war and  learn how to integrate those experiences into the next phase of  his life, without letting those lessons and experience consume him. I’m just starting to fully appreciate what this homecoming may mean.

Our military leaders are paying attention to the effects participating in these wars has on our soldiers. They are making significant efforts to educate our troops and their families on how to assimilate back into a society that really doesn’t understand, and doesn’t seem to pay attention to anything beyond the borders of our 50 states.

Sadly, military suicide rates are increasing, in spite of the attention paid to address the silent, but significant impact of Post Traumatic Stress Disorders. We’re just starting to understand all the different types of pain our soldiers endure; physical, emotional and mental pain, each wrecking havoc on the strongest of our men and women.

My dad’s generation rarely spoke of what they went through. On the 50th anniversary of D-Day, one of my dad’s best friends shared how he stumbled into one of Hitler’s concentration camps as he was running telephone lines through Germany, ahead of Patton’s 3rd army. He had been silent those 50 years, never mentioning this horror to anyone, never telling a soul, not even his wife or his own children of this experience. It was an unspeakable event in his life, so secret that, even now, it feels as though I’m betraying a confidence writing about it. It must have been painful holding it inside all those years.

During the late 60s and 70s when my brothers served during the unpopular Vietnam era, no one paid attention to anyone’s homecoming.  Our servicemen were in the jungles in Southeast Asia one day, and plunked down in jungles of our urban centers the next.  There were no formal out processes, no assessments, no counseling.  Almost 60,000 American men and women died in that war. Tens of thousands more struggle to this day, and no wonder.

As a society, we’re getting better.  We’re learning to at least acknowledge their service when our troops return. We’ve set up chat rooms and webinars, online support groups and transitional assistance advisors in each state. Help is there, if we need it. If.

In the meantime, today I cut some fresh sweet corn off the cob and froze it, knowing the season will be past by the time he’s home. It’s the first thing I’ve allowed myself to do, in preparation for his homecoming.

The homecoming we joyfully await, with no expectations of anything other than the blessed relief of being physically present with him.

In about a month.

4 Responses to “Countdown to Homecoming”

  1. 1 Rod
    August 22, 2009 at 5:20 pm

    Almost there.

  2. 2 Joan Glasper
    August 23, 2009 at 6:00 am

    I can’t wait to breathe a sigh of relief with you, my friend.

  3. 3 Corrie
    August 23, 2009 at 10:20 am

    I love you, Mom. Very much looking forward to being a complete family again so very soon.

  4. 4 Jefferson
    August 26, 2009 at 12:44 pm

    It’s comforting to see that the military is paying more attention to the over-all well-being of our returning forces. They deserve so much more then any red-carpet treatment could possibly supply. The transition may prove to be difficult, but he will have an amazing support system around him to help him find balance and ease the somewhat shocking contrast.

    And it may be difficult. We don’t yet know. After all, he will be returning to a country where Brett Favre is now a VIKING and Michael Vick is an EAGLE. (think symbolically) That alone may prove to be a little traumatic.

    Can’t wait to welcome him home and celebrate with fried pickles…..and thawed sweet corn.

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