Thing I Love: Homecomings
In the past week I have been able to experience 2 very special homecoming celebrations. The first of which was in Fort Bragg, NC (4.26.06) when soldiers of the 391st FINALLY got to step onto American soil. Then, on Tuesday (5.2.06) there was a community wide Celebration in Asheville, NC to welcome the soldiers of Alpha Company back to their hometown. Patriotic celebrations have always touched me in ways I can't even explain. But when it's a patriotic celebration to welcome home someone you have shared all your life with, it's a feeling that surpasses any other. It's a sense of relief...joy...gratitude...God's provision...love...and even sadness for the famlies who had to experience a different kind of homecoming for their soldier. It's so overwhelming. To understand the appreciation for the homecoming of the 391st, here's a little background:
First of all, these soldiers left the US in April of 2005. During the VERY LONG year they were gone, they got to come home for 2 weeks on leave. Joseph, my brother, chose his leave during September/October of 2005, and the 2 weeks were filled with all kinds of family gatherings. It was great to see him, but still hard to have to say good-bye again.
During their time in Afghanistan, they lost 7 men to the war on terrorism. This would have been hard enough to deal with in your home country with your friends and family to support you. However, these guys were a 24 hour plane ride away and had to rely on each other to make it through this horrific time. It made them strong...both individually and corporately. And I am sure it is something they will NEVER forget.
When April 2006 rolled around and the anticipation of their homecoming grew and grew, we began to make plans to head to Fort Bragg for their homecoming. We planned to head to Fort Bragg, then to Hattiesburg, MS, then back to Fort Bragg. After weeks of planning and changing hotel reservations many many times, we were ready to go. Well, to make a VERY LONG story short, we waited in Fort Bragg for 5 days before we got to see Joseph. First their departure was set back because a bid flew into the engine of their plane, and they had to spend 24 hours fixing it. (yes, folks, this is a true story!) Then, once they got the engine repaired and were traveling down the runway, the engines burst into flames. (Again, this is a true story!) They ended up waiting almost 9 days total for a plane that would take them out of the country. They had all packed up everything they had. No one had towels or soap, so showers were pretty much not an option. Thankfully, they ended up with showers before they came home AND they got good food the 9 days they waited! SO, after waiting in Fort Bragg for 5 days with emotions running high and lots of craziness that I don't have anymore time or energy to discuss, we FINALLY got to see our soldier!!! SO, all that to say that we REALLY appreciated their homecoming a LOT more than we would have if they had arrived when they were supposed to. But, hey...this IS the Army we are talking about here...and their unofficial slogan is "Hurry Up and Wait"!!
None the less, we are SO glad to have Joseph home, and can't wait to spend some more time with him! Here are some fun pics of the homecoming celebrations!
**JoJo and I at Fort Bragg at 4:30am the morning he came home. (PS...I had only had 2 hours of sleep and he had been on a plane for 24 hours...I think we look ok!)
**The 391st A Co. guys on the big screen in the ceremony at a local church during the Asheville celebration. There were some very meaningful songs and tributes to the soldiers who lost their lives. Also lots of crying and hugging and good food, too!
**Another thing I love about Homecomings are painted cars! Staci and I decorated Mom's car, also known as the "Welcome Homemobile"!
**At the Asheville celebration, there were LOTS of flags and yellow ribbons. Flags hung from fire truch ladders...flags lining the road...and lots of little flags being held by the MANY people there to welcome them home!
I love Homecomings!!! :)