One of the really cool things about having a deployed husband is the fun you get to have preparing for a military homecoming.
My dad was a Naval Aviator and we got to stand out on the flight line together, waiting to see them soar across the sky, land in front of our very eyes, jump out of their planes, and come sauntering across the tarmac, as we ran at long last to tackle them in their flight suits. There was a party at the hangar and there was a fancy dinner later in the month, and as we drove home there were signs leading all the way from the squadron parking lot to the gate, welcoming them home and celebrating their return. Local business marquees welcomed home the unit with a discount or two, and TV stations played clips of the returning heroes and covered the classic reunion kisses and the dads-meeting-babies-for-the-first-time moments.
But IA deployments are different. That stands for “Individual Augmentee.” That means Husband filled a single spot to augment another service, and his reserve unit stayed here. That means he’s coming home alone, just like he left alone. Just him. There’s no group of spouses to wait with, cheer with, or make signs with. There aren’t any parties planned. And there aren’t any dinners honoring him and the work he did. There’s just us and our ten inch American flags.
And this is all perfectly fine with Husband. “Don’t make this more than it is. It’s just another event. I would prefer to meet only my two favorite girls and one crazy boy at the airport.”
Wah? He’s clearly been hanging out with those spec ops guys too much.
So he wants to go low-key, huh? I get it. He’s not a hero. Just a guy doing his job. His duty. He didn’t give his life so he didn’t really sacrifice enough. He’s just a dude, getting on an airplane and coming home. “Nothing to see here, people!”
Of course his primary objective the last 360 days has been getting bad guys and trying to come up with ways to keep him and his dudes alive. And he’s been away from his home for over a year. And he’s been doing it nearly half way around the world in a place where he has endured 125 degree days in twelve or sixteen hour shifts. And he’s seen things I’ll never (want to) know about. But yeah. No biggie. Nothing to celebrate.
So. I’ve found a solution that works for me. I’ve decided to just pretend he’s emerging from a one year coma. It seems about right. I mean, by definition it’s a prolonged period of unconsciousness.
I figure we’ll come to the airport and hold up signs that say “welcome back from your coma!” and “hooray for modern medical miracles!” and “happy recovery!”
Once he has recovered, I can hit the speech circuit to discuss “How to Survive When You’re Husband is in a One Year Coma.” That will of course lead to me authoring a made for television mini-series based loosely on our fight against comatosis. It could be called “He’s Not a Hero, He’s Just in a Coma: The True Life Story of A Woman on a Mission to Get Her Husband Back Home and the Man who Didn’t Want to Make a Big Deal Out of It.” Sandra Bullock of “While You Were Sleeping” fame could play me, and since Husband is pretty hunky, he could be played by Tom Cruise or Brad Pitt or Matthew McConaughey.
On second thought, I should probably play myself. That would probably be best.
* * *
And it doesn’t matter to me one bit what you say, baby. You’re a hero to me and two little kids I know, and lots and lots of other folks who’ve been praying and waiting for your return. We don’t have to call you one to make it true. Because, you know …
It is what it is.