What I’ve Learned One Year After Homecoming

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So, this is weird.

John and I had college friends visiting us on June 1. (That’s not the weird part.) All four of us were jammed into our car and we were driving back from having brunch when I realized: It was one year ago that John came home. (That’s the weird part.) Looking over at my handsome husband and watching him laugh with two of his best friends at that moment was almost like a movie. It was just perfect.

It also made Afghanistan seem so far away and completely surreal.

One year after deployment ended, a military spouse shares what she learned during reintegration.

I won’t go on about the day John came home since I’ve already written (what I think is) a boss post about that. I’ll just say that it was a very stressful, yet happy day. (Seriously, go read that post. You’ll get why I nearly lost my mind.) Instead, I’ll go on about what I’ve learned over the past year since John’s homecoming.

(Please remember, I’m speaking just from my individual experience.. John and I had a very easy reintegration compared to some couples’, and perhaps a more difficult one than others’. It’s all relative, but everyone’s is valid.)

It’s cliche, but…

…it put things in perspective. Really, everything else seems secondary to deployment. Weird work hours? Working on the holidays? Frustrating, but at least John comes home every night. Valentine’s Day plans messed up? At least we were together on the day.  At least John’s not in Afghanistan.

One year after deployment ended, a military spouse shares what she learned during reintegration.

We are super communicative.

I’d chalk this up to our entire relationship being a long-distance one, but deployment had a lot to do with how much we talk. We talk about everything– from serious, important topics to what we ate for lunch. Seriously. Down to the last Oreo and carrot stick.

It is still weirdly hard to say goodbye.

John and I have had two really tough goodbyes in our relationship: the one when he left for the first time, and the one when he left after R&R. In the past year, we’ve had a few days apart, and those goodbyes (while not as upsetting or heart-wrenching) were still hard to say. I thought that deployment would have made any goodbye that was less than a year-long to be a piece of cake!  (And yes, I miss him when he goes to work. What can I say? I like hanging out with John!)

Keeping score doesn’t help anyone.

When John was away, I unconsciously started making lists of his gestures so that I wouldn’t get upset when we couldn’t talk or when it had been a while since getting a letter or email. (Yes, I’m a little neurotic. I totally own that.) While it helped me then to appreciate all of his gestures, that kind of score-keeping doesn’t do well when you’re living in the same house. I had to readjust the way I had thought about our relationship for a whole year– that took some time.

Good stuff does come out of it.

Genius, right? While John was deployed, I felt really conflicted about being able to name anything that was good from the deployment. After all, the best thing would have been having John around for all of the wedding plans, bridal showers, holidays, and excitement of last year. But looking back now, it’s a lot easier to say that good things came even from deployment. It just takes a little hindsight to see them.

Waiting is worth it.

Yeah, I knew this going through deployment, but the past year has confirmed it– John is awesome and there’s no way I would have not waited for him.

18 Responses

  1. Thank you for this insightful post, I follow your website since quite a few months now, but it’s the first time I really feel like leaving a comment.
    My boyfriend is currently deployed in Afghanistan and there are ups and downs, but reading your post, it makes it all worth it.
    I love your last sentence: “John is awesome and there’s no way I would have not waited for him.” I just have to replace the name by Sean, and there you go, the only reason I need to go through it all with a smile!
    Thanks again!

    1. Andrea– thanks so much for leaving your comment! It makes me so happy to know that this post spoke to you! (Yay!) Good luck with Sean’s deployment– you can do it!–and please don’t be a stranger! :-)

  2. Love it. The goodbye thing? Completely!!! It’s been 5 years since my hubby came home from Afghanistan, and I honestly thought it would make drill weekends, TDYs and every other miniscule separation easier. But in reality it made it harder for me! Every goodbye – even for a couple days or a week – was just like a fresh reminder of what it was like to say goodbye at the mobilization or at the end of R&R. It’s gotten a little easier over time, but now with little kids, there’s that extra element. If I thought it was tough to hug him and let him go, it’s a million times harder to watch him hug the kids and say goodbye to them. When he deploys next, he will not only be leaving me, but leaving 3 little ones, too… and that… sigh. It also makes attending church harder, too, because every Sunday he can’t be with us is a reminder of every Sunday during that deployment.

    And yes… good things come from deployment. It made us stronger, for sure… and made me stronger definitely :) Congrats on the 1 year mark!!!

    1. Ah, I am so glad it’s not just me, Vanessa! I can’t imagine going through deployments with children– you are a strong, strong woman! (I could barely take care of myself last year, not to mention anyone else! :-) )

  3. I can only imagine all the things you learn through a deployment! My brother was in the military and I dated a guy for a year and a half who was gone most of the time. I do remember the feelings and scares I had with both situations. Crazy thing is it wasn’t even the man I was to spend the rest of my life with! I can only imagine! I am glad you have learned from the experience though :)

    1. Thanks, Cassie! It’s funny how even after the deployment, I’m still learning about us. It was one of the defining experiences of our relationship (and perhaps our lives), to be sure.

  4. This is all so true! Mac went TDY for about a month in 2012. He was only in Georgia, but it was his first excursion that was longer than a week since he got back. It really sucked.

    1. Time away is time away! John and I were apart a few times this year (not even a month!)– I just wasn’t expecting the distance to be such a big deal with Afghanistan, but it was. I’m glad that other people have the same experience! :-) Thanks for sharing!

  5. I saw a post on someone’s Pinterest page that led me here! What a pleasant surprise.

    Please thank your husband for his service and thank you, Jo, for putting your thoughts and feelings here. It makes it all more real for those you guys and gals sacrifice for.

    1. Thank you, Stan! I am not sure why I only received a notification now that you had commented– I’m sorry! I appreciate your kind words and will be sure to let my husband know.

  6. OMG, I’m so glad to know that I’m not the only neurotic one! Its been a small while since I’ve heard from my deployed soldier and I’m trying so hard not to get mad or upset about it and just chocking it up to the mood swings. I feel so guilty for feeling this way because I know that he’s going through a lot over there but its so scary feeling potentially forgotten or not cared for. I’m going to try to focus on the good things a bit more, at least until he comes home.

    1. You are not neurotic! :-) It’s important to have a positive outlook, but you can’t sacrifice your feelings, either. Deployment is tough on everyone involved. Keep on keeping on– you’re doing a great job! :-D

  7. Thank you for this! Can’t wait to look around this website more…my fiance’ just left for his first deployment to Afghanistan today, so I have no idea what to expect yet!

    1. I’m so glad you found me, Kylee! Thanks for saying something– best of luck to you! Don’t be a stranger. :-)

  8. Jo,

    It’s so nice to read about your positive experience!

    I’m in the midst of my boyfriend’s year-long deployment and sometimes it feels like there’s still so far to go that I can’t even imagine his homecoming. Though, I think about this “imaginary” reunion 24/7 haha. I especially liked your comments about your communication. Deployment really sucks, but I’m learning that it does miraculous things for your relationship that not many other situations can do. You have to get really good at communication because, frankly, that’s all you have!

    Thanks so much for shedding light on not just the homecoming, but life after the homecoming!


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