Homecoming Ceremonies, Part Two

Read Part One

I have received hundreds of emails about my opinion on who should attend homecoming ceremonies.

In addition, it is by far one of the most popular posts 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 would disagree with my opinion.

I think one part at the end of the article 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 expand on further 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 also agree on.

If all else fails, then follow the wishes of the soldier

As I stated before, with my husband’s unit, we weren’t given enough notice for anyone to come to welcome him home.

I got a phone call from him saying, “I’m home, come pick me up.” I had a general idea (think a two-week window) of when he was coming home, but we 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 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.

Who Should Be There?

I believe 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 soldier’s wishes.

It’s His Homecoming

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 many 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 had 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 many 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 ensure everyone was there.

Let me also say something else.

Honor His Wishes & Minimize the Drama

I have received emails from soldiers who were sent my original article by a family member. Quite a few asked for advice on how to play referee between their wives and parents.

In these cases, the soldiers only wanted their wives (and kids, if they had any) present. They told everyone about their preference, only to later find out that their wives were being blamed by their parents (sometimes relentlessly) for HIS decision.

This was causing considerable strain for the soldier, not only in their marriage but also in their relationship with their parents.

The last thing any of us wants is for the soldier’s mind to be elsewhere when he is overseas.

If he indicates who he wants to be there, please do not start blaming other parties or berating 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.

Allow Down Time

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.

author avatar
Stacey Abler
Stacey's husband joined the Army in 2003 and was medically retired after four deployments. She enjoys sharing her experiences and expertise around Army life while continuing to support Army spouses and families in their military journey.

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

  2. 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!

  3. 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.

  4. 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

  5. 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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