Three years ago today, three years ago from this moment I’m writing, The Warrior was sitting at my family’s kitchen table for the first time, having an animated conversation over my homemade German Chocolate cupcakes. It wasn’t awkward, it wasn’t confrontational – it felt completely natural, and he made quite a positive impression on everyone! (He especially made a connection with our collie dog, Samson.)
Fast forward two years and two days from our first date – April 13, 2012 – the day The Warrior returned from Afghanistan. Our faith and love had been tested, severely at times…but that homecoming day was one of the best days of our lives. As I waited, surrounded by military wives and families, I had the same type of nervousness as when we had first met. Would he like my new outfit? Would he still find me pretty? What would we say to each other? Two years ago, I had sat on that couch in Olive Garden, waiting to get acquainted with this guy I had never met. On that April day in 2012, I sat on bleachers at an Army post, waiting to get reacquainted with this same guy who, in a way, I had never met before. A person is never the same after war.
When the white buses pulled up, the crowd erupted. I waved my miniature flag with one hand and shakily alternated between taking pictures and video with the other. The soldiers unloaded and the only thing we could see were their boots. It seemed to take FOREVER for them to get in formation, just like it had taken FOREVER for the buses to arrive. The DJ led us in screaming “Move that bus! Move that bus!!” And then they marched toward us. I scanned the crowd, looking for The Warrior’s dear face, straining to see him once again, after five long months. There he was, looking serious and then flashing his signature impish grin as the Colonel gave his 45 second speech. Then the DJ counted off, “Three, two, one, CHARGE!” and it was a mad rush to find our soldiers on the field. He and I had pre-planned to meet near the tent, but I was making a beeline for him. I came within touching distance of him and shouted his name, and he turned around, carrying his ruck sack and wearing his patrol cap. I barely gave him time to look at me before I enveloped him with my arms, squeezing tightly around his neck and putting my head between his head and right shoulder. I felt so choked up and happy that I could not muster any words. He held me tightly and it was like we were the only two people in the world.
Every homecoming from deployment or TDY (temporary duty) is another “first meeting,” another “first kiss.” That is one of the beauties of military life. It is a constant rediscovering of who the other person is, how the other person feels and perceives the world, how you walk the path of life together as a couple. It makes you experience the depths of gratitude because you understand just how easily EVERYTHING can be taken away and have lived daily with this reality for an extended period of time. These types of things I feel deeply and understand them in my heart, but I also find these emotions and realities the hardest things to write about.
As crazy as this military life can be, I would never trade it for anything else. The continuation of our story is sure to be an adventure, unpredictable at times, but I look forward to it because it will be with my Warrior! :)