Deployment is almost over! The countdown is only a few weeks, days or hours. I am ready. Kind of.
I still need to clean the house, corral the kids, hose off the pets and pick out a stunning outfit for the BIG DAY.
Except now, here he is. The house is dirty. The kids are running amok. The dog just got skunked and I’m wearing sweats. I am so not ready for this military homecoming!
My worst nightmare is a surprise military homecoming.
Maybe because I’m an ultra Type-A planner who likes to be moderately in control at most times. To me a surprise military homecoming just seems like a bad idea.
First, the whole surprise thing. It’s a random time of day and the doorbell rings. There’s a person wearing some sort of uniform standing at my front door. For me, it would be heart-stopping shock. Not joy, shock about the potential despair that might be coming. All because there is a uniformed person on my doorstep, without warning.
Part of deployment is the mental prep and gamification of it. The countdown is front and center on the fridge. In my mind, I’m ready for X day. With a surprise military homecoming, the spouse or family might not be mentally ready.
Along with the mental prep work to welcome a service member home, comes some deep selfishness.
We have been apart for goodness knows how long, and my bed has been empty. The children have not seen their father in forever it seems. And we need that moment of just us-ness.
But a surprise military homecoming takes away that intimacy. They take away the “us-ness” of the moment by bringing other people into the mix.
It’s sheer logistics. Someone else will see him first, be next to him first, drive him first and arrange his first food.
Call me selfish, but the only humans I want to share those firsts with are my children. The deployment has been a build-up to the moment my spouse steps off the bus, plane or out of formation. I need the closure of that very first kiss.
Beyond just the “first” moments, let’s talk about the whole planning aspect of these surprise military homecoming shenanigans.
The service member has to contact someone at home to arrange everything. Someone has to be there to get her. She has to have food and something to drink, plus provide a change of clothes. The props have to be set up in advance, ready to go. Plus, someone has to move the spouse and kids into the correct position at the proper time.
That is a LOT of work. Chances are that the TV crew members don’t help out every person who wants to pull off one of these surprise military homecomings.
Last, but not least, let’s talk about the lies involved with a surprise military homecoming.
The building blocks of marriage are truth and trust.
After months apart, the service member has decided to keep a HUGE secret from his or her spouse: the time and date of return. Not only has she just not mentioned it, the service member has also likely actively engaged in deception to conceal the return window.
Reintegration following deployments is challenging enough without starting off with a giant lie. Failing to be truthful about when you are returning can be extremely hurtful.
Not to mention, the weeks leading up to reunions are unbelievably busy: cleaning, haircuts, notes to school, arranging child care, more cleaning, meal prep and getting children ready to be back in a 2-parent household again.
Just showing up can put a seriously huge (but happy) wrench into a lot of this prep time. Plus, there might be last-minute “distraction” adventures that families have planned to just get through the final few weeks or days.
I know I hit Disneyland an awful lot the month that a year-long deployment was winding down. What if my husband had picked a spontaneous Disney day to “surprise” me? He’d have been locked out while I rode Space Mountain, that’s what.
So, by all means, go right ahead and do your supposed to be fun and emotional surprise military homecoming stuff.
But please, before you get deep into plans, remember that not everyone likes surprises. Some families on the homefront need the non-surprise reunion to wrap their brains around the whole situation.
Trust me, even without the surprise aspect, every military homecoming is full of love.