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Homecoming Ceremonies, Part Two

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.

About the author: Stacey is an Army wife of a soldier who joined in 2003. He has since been medically retired but she continues to provide information to Army wives and families to make their adjustment to the Army lifestyle easier. Connect with Stacey: Facebook Twitter Pinterest

{ 19 comments… add one }
  • Doreen Messner August 19, 2011, 5:18 pm

    Thank you for talking about this issue, as a mother of a single soldier I believe if he did have a wife and children they should be the ones there. As a parent there is a time we do need to step back, and be happy for the united family!

  • Amy August 31, 2011, 10:42 pm

    Hi Stacey,

    My fiance is coming home from his deployment soon and of course, I don’t exactly know when. The base he’s at is on the other side of the country from where I am, and he told me that he doesn’t want me waiting in a hotel room for several days, wasting my work vacation time, in order to be there for his homecoming. In fact, I’ve already scheduled a trip out to his base to see him soon after he will return. But the problem is….his family is out of the country, and if I’m not there, he’ll be all alone at his homecoming and I can’t stand that. I’ve told him that but he says he will be ok with his buddies and once I know that he’s safe on base, then I can come down and see him. What do I do? I sort of want to surprise him and show up, but as you say, I want to honor his wishes!

    • Stacey October 11, 2011, 9:16 pm

      I’d do what he’s asking and visit with him once he’s had a chance to get settled.

  • shelly November 13, 2011, 10:35 pm

    I realize that I am coming into this conversation late, however, my soldier is coming home in December and has asked that no one be there for him as he wants to be alone with his thoughts when he gets back. That really hurts my heart, I am not being selfish, I just think someone should be there for him. But this is his request and as much as I want to be there to surprise him, I think that I need to honor and respect his wishes. I am hoping that he will change his mind.

    • diane February 1, 2012, 1:42 pm

      my soldier told me that he is due to come home from afghantian jan 30 2012 he was sure i havent heard from him yet. he lives in nyc dont know if he’s made it back or what can u please help me understand whats goin on or what could be going on? the last time that i have heard from him was jan 15 2012 in afghantian by internet . i know he told me they get medical ck. before they see there families. im a new girlfriend please help me understand n what should i do?

      • Monica June 2, 2012, 2:17 am

        I know this is late. Did you get everything worked out? Also, please remember NEVER to give out dates. It is a violation of security protocol and can even result in a delay of your service member coming home.

        • Army Fiance August 7, 2012, 1:46 am

          Never never never tell ANYONE dates of deployments or arrivals home!

  • Patty August 4, 2012, 9:49 pm

    I am so Happy and excited but sad AT the same time my soldier is coming home in 4 months I am so Happy i am goin to see him again but i AM sad that 4 months ? thats alot 🙁 the problem is that i dont know the exact date when hes coming and for his deployment I came and live with my parent in costa rica that way i wasent alone all this 9 months.My questiion is should I go live at a hotel when he just have 1 month left im so lost !!! DONT KNOW WHAT TO DO!!!

  • JoAnn October 17, 2012, 8:30 am

    Thank you so very much for this info and perspective. Our son does not want us at the base when he returns from Afganistan in a few months. We were there 2 years ago when he returned from Iraq and it was bittersweet for all of us. At first we were hurt that he didn’t want us there this time and as time passed we began to understand that this homecoming is about him. I can’t imagine him standing there with no one to greet him like his fellow soldiers were the previous homecoming. We happened to be the only parents that were able to make it.. Yet, we will respect his wishes, wait for his leave and celebrate when he comes home. Thank you for enlightening me with your article.

  • NEENA April 26, 2013, 4:02 am

    i need help …where do i go and who can i talk to…my soldier husband just returned from deployment and his completely different person… angry , dont talk much and drinks alot, if i try and talk to him, he tells me to leave it..now we both just in the house not talking but the needed conversation..he constantly though tells me that he loves me and can never live without me and that scares me and i am sad and dont know what happened out there and he dont wanna talk either please can someone tell me what to do(ps: this is my first time we married 10months and his been gone for 9months)..

    • Stacey April 30, 2013, 2:30 pm

      I’m sorry you are dealing with this. Start with the unit chaplain. If he won’t agree to that, call Military OneSource and they can provide other resources. While I’m certainly not diagnosing PTSD, it can be helpful to learn more about it. Check out my friend’s site at http://armyreservistwife.blogspot.com/. You can also email her or connect through her FB page – she will help.

      • Jackie January 16, 2015, 5:28 pm

        This is another reason I discourage parents and the whole crowd from just showing up for a married Soldier… you don’t know what the Soldier has experienced or how s/he is dealing with it, having that huge crowd may be overwhelming and be a emotional battering ram. And many of them will sit there and suffer because well-meaning family (or not so well-meaning) made the effort to make the trip and they don’t want to ask them to leave so that they can heal mentally/emotionally.

  • Cecil Brown June 22, 2014, 2:39 pm

    This doesn’t answer my question , how do we get passes for his final home coming. No re deployment , home for good .

    • Stacey Abler June 23, 2014, 11:27 am

      You shouldn’t need a pass for the homecoming ceremony, only to get on post, which you can get at the gate.

  • Amanda April 20, 2015, 2:36 am

    As the girlfriend to a soldier coming back soon im going to let his family be there for this one until they accept me into the family (i havent met them yet and im scared to just intrude on that day) but ill get to see him the next day 😀 and i cant wait!

  • MA May 17, 2015, 6:05 am

    Thank you for posting these two articles (a long time ago). We have been through three deployments together. The first, we were overseas and his parents had visited on R&R, so they couldn’t afford the time and money to come again. So it was me and our newborn there to greet them. The second, we were only a 6-hour drive away, so they did come down for homecoming and I think I was okay with it…I had a newborn and a 1-year-old and was thankful for the help and mostly happy to include them since they missed the first one. By our third deployment, I was ready for it to be just me and the kids. My MIL was not pushy, and did ask if it was ok, which I appreciated, so at the beginning of deployment I told her it was probably fine. Plus, it wasn’t my place to say “no.” I think the stress of military life caught up with me and eventually I ended up telling my husband that I was ready for homecoming to be just about us, and asked if his mother could come a day or two after. It had to come from him, and he refused, even though I think she would have understood. It still hurts to this day that he refused. She is sweet and stayed in a hotel, but that first hug and kiss and conversation really is made awkward by his mom watching and waiting behind you. She had already been in on the pomp and circumstance once, and that really is a big part of what she loves…which is partly what bothers me…twice in a row, she didn’t take the time to visit him before deployment when she could have and was invited, but say there is a ceremony and she will be there…(this is true with everything in our lives, even now that they are retired and have the time and flexibility). I am growing to hate the ceremonies and just want my husband back. Two years later it still bothers me, so I mostly urge anyone reading this to communicate how important your own wishes are to your husband. Mothers no doubt miss their sons, but your marriage should come first. Follow your husband’s wishes in the end, but don’t leave subtle hints. Let him know how much you need your own space when your other half is first released to reunite with you and the kids, and tell your MIL you need to think about it first rather than making the mistake of getting her hopes up before the stress of deployment really hits you (like I did, oops). I think it was also harder for my husband to comprehend my feelings when he was in the middle of deployment with no sleep and the weight of the world on his shoulders, so I know now to really think about and discuss it before the next deployment.

  • Alyarania November 20, 2015, 11:55 pm

    I have boy friend hi got retired on july this year but hi still in afghanistan her name george David casey i have send money for her buy ticket but hi need money again $400 hi say to pay some medical if not pay that hi cant not out from afghanistan hi also told me after he ritered hi only have meal once day that is dinner time so i want know hi already hard work for somany year and know ritered how can be hi going home most buy ticket for own self please any soldier can help me what the true is
    thank you

  • Kary gray September 20, 2017, 1:32 am

    As i sit here in a hotel that ive been camped out in waiting for my son for 3 days as we know the dates change like the wind i can see how parent would be mad maybe one day when you have a son and he joins the army you’ll understand mine is not married yet … I have to say that for the last nine months mine has asked over an over that his father an i be here and did not want his girlfriend to know yet what dates hes coming home bc he felt he needed time to re adjust I think it depends on the person some maynot want wives an girlfriends for a day or 2 so you might consider that

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