I changed my flight 4 times from LA to Fairbanks. Q’s flight was pushed back, then it was going to be early, then it got pushed back again until we finally had a “tentatively good idea” that it was going to be the night of the 5th. I landed in Fairbank the night of the 4th and Q had asked his friend if his wife would pick me up. I like to think I can get along with anyone, but it’s beyond scary to get off a plane and have someone you don’t know pick you up. The good news is that Jen and I couldn’t have gotten along better. She picked me up and it was like I had known her my whole life. It was way past both of our bedtimes when I got in, but we still stayed up late talking into the evening. It was SO nice to complain and vent and bitch about things when the other person is going through the exact same thing.
She had work on the 5th so I was on my own. I don’t think I really comprehended that Q was going to land that night since it felt like it was such a long ways away. That day I signed our lease, filled up our new fridge, took a nap and then went to dinner with Jen and her friends. We got word at dinner that Q’s homecoming ceremony would be at 11 that night and that’s when it all started to feel real, like “OMG this is happening” real. He texted me that he had landed, but they still had to do a little outprocessing before we saw them. I remember sitting in my hotel room and thinking “I get to see Q in 2 hours. I get to hug him and squeeze him and kiss him in 2 hours.”
At around 10:20PM, Jen and I caravanned over to the homecoming building. I can’t even describe the atmosphere in that room. I’ve been on post only with Q and normally we are just shopping at the commissary or grabbing some papers in his office, so when I walked into this building and there were hundreds of wives, friends, babies and kids with huge grins and signs and shirts with their dad’s names on them, I melted. There were women whose husbands weren’t even coming in on this flight that were there to greet the guys on this flight. There was so much pride in that room. Women were so proud of their husbands. Kids were saying “My dad is coming home. He is my hero.” There was so much cuteness and the love and the adoration and everyone in that room was supporting each other. No one cared that I hadn’t been in Fairbanks while the guys were gone or hadn’t met any of them, they all hugged me and shared my excitement like I had known them forever.
Of course the guys got delayed a little, so what was originally 11:00PM was slowly turning into 12:00AM. The room was still buzzing, the kids were still running around, the wives all nervously switching feet while the Army band played. And then finally, the guys marched out. I was of course playing with my camera, so I missed Q… but Jen said she saw him over to the right. The room was buzzing, women were cheering and screaming and I had butterflies. There were a few words said and then the guys were dismissed. I ran through the crowd looking for Q. And let me tell you, with 200 guys in uniforms all looking for their families and us all looking for them, it was chaos. A good chaos because to the left and right of me were couples kissing and dad’s hugging their kids. And then I got a tap on my back and it was Q. And we hugged and kissed and I think I said “You smell bad” because I didn’t know what else to say. And then I grabbed his hand and he introduced me to some guys he knew on the flight, we grabbed his bag and headed back.
I can’t tell you what it feels like to be reunited with someone who has been gone for a year. We got to see each other for R&R in November, but he was always going back to war. This time when we saw each other it was like all our worries in the world had disappeared. Everything was different now. He was home and we were together and everything was going to be ok. And that night when I stole the covers from him and he was snoring up a storm, it was life like usual. And I couldn’t be happier.