A soldier coming home from a deployment doesn’t quite work the same way as grandma coming for a visit. They don’t get to buy a plane ticket months in advance and arrive at a prescribed date and time. Sure, the deployment as a whole is specified in advance on the unit’s deployment orders, so one can be pretty sure of the no-later-than date for their soldier’s return.
But I’m hesitant to set my heart on any specific date because after nearly 15 years with the army, I know that the only constant is change. My strategy has always been to view the end of a deployment in broad terms like “next month” or “a few weeks” instead of absolutes like “before the 30th.” I usually prepare the kids for the farthest date out so when daddy comes home earlier, they are surprised, and when he comes home later, it’s still when they expected so they aren’t disappointed. I know some families that do countdowns, but how can you count down when the date is really just a window?
We knew the window was open when Mr. Incredible moved out of his Containerized Housing Unit and into a bay. Now it was just a matter of waiting for the flight out. Leaving Iraq is by Air Force plane. Their flight plans are not like a commercial airline’s. If they don’t want to fly in a sandstorm, they don’t (and I gotta respect that). But that also doesn’t mean that when the sandstorm ends the plane is waiting there to pick up where they left off. They might be off doing other things. So although one might be on the list to go home on Monday, it’s just as likely they’ll actually fly on Wednesday. Or the next Monday. Most of the trip home is on a plane chartered for the purpose. Once on the charter plane, it’s much easier to gauge when the soldiers will be home.
We got our official phone call two days ago — Mr. Incredible is wheels up and on his way! Now we knew that he was due Sunday morning (though we had our suspicions that he had finally gotten on a plane when the silly emails forwarding LOLcats stopped and the Facebook posts went silent). Once back on US soil, Mr. Incredible was able to check in with us at the designated fuel stops. Many kudos go to the greeters in Bangor, Maine who not only had coffee and snacks, but cell phones for soldiers to call home with. Then we got another official phone call last night confirming they were still on time.
First thing this morning, we drove to the airfield for the welcoming ceremony. Banners and flags and cheesy “Rocky” music as the soldiers entered the hangar. Then the less cheesy Division march and the Army song, followed by The Star Spangled Banner and a blessing. A very few words by the ranking guy there and everyone was released to go home with their families!