One of the hardest things to do as a military spouse is seeing your loved one sent overseas, but after many, long months of sleepless nights, Skype calls and care packages, you finally get the news: They are coming home! Now what? The initial shock and happiness of getting a date and time can cloud our judgment on how to handle the Welcome Home ceremony. On the next page are some helpful suggestions with pros and cons gathered from a survey of the Fort Campbell community.
1. First and foremost, make sure you are in contact with your Family Readiness Group. Some people are anti-FRG, but FRGs hold vital information about when and where you will meet your soldier. They also have information of events that might lead up to or follow homecoming. Some units utilize a phone tree and some use the Web. It’s best to have all your information up to date and submitted to your unit’s FRG leader.
2. Once you get the date, the planning begins. Remember to plan and organize as much as you can before the homecoming so you can worry about nothing but welcoming your loved one home when the time comes. Planning for the big day is the longest and hardest part — deciding to use photos or not, decorating banners and orchestrating family. It can all be a little daunting.
- Capturing memories on camera is irreplaceable. A welcome home ceremony is a special moment you will want to cherish forever, so decent shots are a must. The question becomes, do you take your own selfies or hire a photographer?
A photographer can often get better quality shots. They can capture your first embrace — which is hard to do with a selfie — and they can take a load off your frazzled mind.
On the other hand, they cost money. Sometimes, photographers close to the military community give discounted or free services, but that is not always the case. A photographer is also another body to coordinate amid the chaos. Overall, most spouses who were surveyed said hiring a photographer is very much worth it.
- Banners and signs are a big hit during welcome home ceremonies. This was actually a debated subject amongst those surveyed. One thing they agreed on was keeping it family friendly. Save the adult-worded signs for a more private venue. Children, elderly and the command will be there so keep it cutesy and loving.
- The debate comes in when discussing to make a sign or save the effort. The good thing about signs and banners is they can help locate your soldier. Anyone who has been to any military function knows that it can be hard to spot a person in a sea of matching camo. So, for your significant other to see a beacon to their family will help confusion.
However, some spouses said signs can block views and make things harder. If you decide to make a sign or banner, just be courteous to those behind you and around you as to not distract from their special moment.
- To bring the kids or not? There are many good reasons to bring your children. The kiddos missed their mommy or daddy just as much as you did, so this is a chance to capture a family bonding moment. That moment is so special.
Some homecomings can be very late at night or very early in the morning, so if you decide to bring the little ones, make sure to bring plenty of age-appropriate activities to keep them busy. It is frowned upon to have them running around, and you also want to focus on the ceremony rather than chasing children or calming them down. Bring snacks to keep them satisfied.
Some families said they chose to leave the kids at home and surprised them the next day. These spouses said they loved that they were able to focus on just their significant other for a small period of time before having the whole family involved. The parents who chose to leave their kiddos at home said a sitter is a must. You are able to focus better, and it’s easier to navigate the crowds. The downside is coordinating and paying a sitter, and the children miss out on the initial tender moment at the ceremony.
- Bringing the extended family is a hot topic. Most spouses recommended telling the family to stay away for a day or two. The bonding moments between spouses is needed. Time to re-acclimate to each other and the children is a must. Also, the space on the shuttles to the hangar is limited. It annoyed many spouses that they had to wait because a family of 10 or more people took up most of the spaces. However, the tender moment shared at the ceremony might be something you want your whole family to be in on. If that’s the case, remember to coordinate well with the whole group.
The Big Day
Now that everything is planned, the big day has arrived. It’s time to enjoy yourself and your loved one. Here are a few pointers for the big day and the Welcome Home ceremony.
First thing’s first, getting dressed. The number one tip that came up with surveyed spouses is wear season-appropriate attire. Part or all of the ceremony might be outdoors. If the ceremony is in December, for example, standing outside in a mini skirt for hours is not ideal. Dress for comfort. One quote worded it perfectly, “You could wear a black trash bag and heels to homecoming. Honestly, he’s not going to care.” — MilitarySpouse.com
Ceremonies can last hours so comfort is key. Your soldier is going to be so happy to see you, the fact you might be wearing Keds will not phase them. Save the special outfit for later. Speaking of special outfit, remember that these ceremonies are family friendly.
There is no need to dress overly sexy. Your soldier probably will look right past the outfit anyway, so the only attention you might get for flashing extra skin, might be negative from other families. Also their command will be there. Make a great impression.
After the soldier is released, the chaos begins. Soldiers running toward loved ones and vice versa. To cut the chaos, don’t rush the parade field, rather have your soldier come to you.
Another tip spouses said is talk to your soldier beforehand and decide whom is coming to whom so that you don’t pass each other in the confusion.
Some homecomings are small while others can have hundreds of soldiers. Anything to cut the chaos and get you to your loved one the quickest is important. Some posts have regulations on time spent with family before being whisked off again, so every second is precious.