Thursday, June 6, 2013

Jessica's Homecoming Story


John is coming home from his year-long deployment to Afghanistan! It's really, really happening! In fact, by the time you read this, he may already be home! This week, I've got some of my wonderful blogging friends who are sharing their variations on the theme: homecoming.

I'll be back sometime during the week (or early next week) with pictures and at least one post about John's homecoming. Until then, I'll be off the grid, enjoying some much overdue time with my fiance.  

Enjoy my guest bloggers' stories! To see other posts in this series, click here.

Hi, I'm Jessica! I write over at My Baby Birds (Facebook) about our life as a Coast Guard family of six! I'm a veteran of the Coast Guard myself, and my husband (the Sailor as I refer to him) is a Maritime Enforcement Specialist for over 13 years now. We have four daughters, ages 10, 10, 2, and our happy surprise is 4 months old. We've experienced a lot of deployments, and a lot of transfers in the past 13 years, and are currently going through both! My husband returns home in June and we are moving to Cape Cod, MA in July.

I think one of the many unique aspects of the Coast Guard vs. other branches, is that our deployments are shorter, but frequent. My husband has spent 9 of his 13 years on ships, but instead of going away for a year, they'll spend 2 -3 months at sea, come home for 6 weeks, and then go back out for another 2 - 3 months. He's had two 6 month deployments, which is the longest we've done at one time. His first long deployment, in 2003, involves kind of a funny homecoming story. The ship he was attached to went to Iraq to travel up the rivers performing security, naval escorts, etc. Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, he left right after we found out we were pregnant with our twin girls. Back then I was floored by the timing, but he's deployed almost immediately after every positive pregnancy test since, so by #3 I just expected it.

The Coast Guard is pretty good about trying to get their members home for births, and his Command was smart enough to fly him out right before the "shock and awe" to avoid him getting stuck in country. I had no idea when he'd be coming home and was about 7 months pregnant when I got a call in the middle of the night that he was somewhere in Europe waiting for his next flight. It took him five very long flights to get from Bahrain to Honolulu and he arrived late on a Wednesday night. Our homecoming was me, teary-eyed and alone in Honolulu airport at 10 PM. I've never been so happy to see anyone, and it was kind of perfect that it was just he, I, and my huge belly! Here's where it got funny...

We finished the pregnancy, had our twins, and 3 weeks later he had to fly back out to meet his ship, which was now in Australia. He was only going to be gone for about 6 weeks this time - easy breezy! When it came time for the ship to return, there was a big hoopla on base because of the length and location of the deployment for this specific Coast Guard unit. I showed up with the twins and stood on the pier waiting for the ship to moor up, with a car seat on either side of me and an itty bitty baby in each. Apparently someone told NBC news that I was also active duty and had given birth to twins during this deployment. Just a few minutes before he walked off the ship I had news cameras in my face asking questions I wasn't ready to answer. I was a deer in headlights and didn't have time to explain that he had just been home for several weeks for the birth of our twins. Crew members started walking off the ship and running into the arms of their spouses and children. Tears everywhere! Squeals, bear hugs, men spinning their brides in the air! It was a beautiful scene. Then there was my husband; cool, calm and collected, walking towards me.

As I got closer to him, with a news anchor and camera man following me, I tried to mouth something along the lines of "make this look good!". I felt pressure to do our crew and their families justice, and was wishing with everything in me that they chose someone else to highlight. It ended up being the most awkward hello ever. He was thrown by the news crew, I was worried about looking horrific on TV, we sort of miss-kissed each other and hugged like two strangers on a blind date. If I didn't have a news crew following me, we would've hugged, made a joke about it being a "short patrol" and I'd show him his girls. I'm such a dork, I should've just been real, but sure enough we ended up on TV over, and over, and over again that week. The most goober reunion on the pier that day!