Part Two of Two
I have received hundreds of emails about my opinion on who should attend homecoming ceremonies. In addition, it is by far the most popular post on my blog and has drawn a wide variety of comments. I have received praise and disgust from spouses and parents of soldiers for my opinion on the issue. And that is okay. I fully expected there would be some who wouldn’t agree with my opinion.
There is one part at the end of the article that I think gets overlooked many times. Or perhaps those who are angry over my opinion can no longer see straight by the time they get to the end of the article. This is the part that I want to further expand on and be sure that it is addressed because in my opinion, it is the most important part of my opinion. I believe it is something that ALL parents and spouses can agree on as well.
If all else fails, then follow the wishes of the soldier.
As I stated before, with my husband’s unit, we were rarely given enough notice for anyone to come to welcome him home. On more than one occasion, I got a phone call from him saying “I’m home, come pick me up.” I had a general idea (think two week window) of when he was coming home but we typically weren’t given an exact date or time until the last possible minute, if at all. So this was really never an issue for us unless someone wanted to just come and camp out at our house for a bit in hopes they would be there when I received the phone call.
But I realize that most units do not operate like this and even though dates and times may change ten times, the family is given notice of when their soldier will arrive. I stand by my opinion that if he is married, the wife and children should be there to greet him and if he is single, the parents, significant other and friends should be there. What absolutely should NOT happen is for the soldier to come home and have no one there to greet him. I have never felt so sorry for soldiers in my life as to witness a homecoming ceremony where no one was there to greet them.
I know some parents and spouses alike take issue with my opinion on who should be there. That is why I said and will say once again, if all else fails, then follow the wishes of the soldier. If your soldier says he wants his English teacher from 10th grade to be at his homecoming ceremony, then do everything in your power to make sure that happens. After all, it is HIS homecoming ceremony and whoever he wants to be present, should be there to greet him when he returns. However, at the same time, if he says he only wants certain people to be there, then follow those wishes as well. The homecoming ceremony is really not about you as the family member, it is about him and his return back to the states.
Each soldier deals with his return differently. While some are thrilled to be surrounded by lots of immediate and extended family members when they return, for others, this is too overwhelming and he would prefer a smaller gathering. This was my husband’s case. If we had been able to have time to arrange it, he would still have preferred that I was the only one there. He felt like he needed time to decompress before being surrounded by a lot of people again. Had he said that he wanted everyone there (and we were given enough notice to arrange it), I certainly would have done my best to make sure everyone was there.
Let me also say something else. I have received emails from soldiers who have had my original article forwarded to them by a family member. Quite a few were asking for advice of how to play referee between their wives and their parents. In these cases, the soldiers only wanted their wives (and kids in some cases) present. They told everyone about their preference, only to later find out that their wives were being blamed (sometimes relentlessly) for HIS decision by his parents. This was causing considerable strain, not only in their marriage, but also in their relationship with their parents, for the soldier. The last thing any of us wants is for the soldier’s mind to be somewhere else when he is overseas. If he indicates who he wants to be there, then please do not start placing blame on other parties or berate him for his decision. It can be discussed when he’s safely back home again.
One final point and then I will put the issue to rest. Some soldiers who wish to have a smaller reception of people at the homecoming ceremony, only need 24-48 hours until they are ready to see everyone else. Some may need weeks. By stating my opinion about who should be at the actual ceremony, I am by no means saying that you shouldn’t see your soldier at all when he returns. All I am saying is to give him the space that he would like – whether that’s no time, 30 minutes, a few days or a few weeks.
To conclude, let me say once again, if all else fails, follow the wishes of your soldier.