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. Thank you so much for following up. My husband and I had this problem with his last deployment and with our 2nd deployment coming up I have already began stressingout about this becoming an issue again. Accurse I will follow my husband’s wishes, but as of today he wants it to be just me at the homecoming ceremony (we do not have any kids yet). If anyone has any issues with that I may forward this to them. Thanks again!

  2. I agree with you 100% Stacy. My husband only wanted me to be there to come get him. It wasn’t because he DIDN’T want to see his family. He just wanted a day with me first. Plus he didn’t want everyone to fuss over him. I was lucky and our families understood completely.
    Thanks for doing the newsletters…I enjoy reading them.
    Jenn B.
    Proud Army Wife!

  3. Stacy I really love your article about homecoming. It really seems like people (including wives and parents) forget that homecoming is for the soldier! I agree with the entire article. In my sons case he did not want anyone there. He wanted to get home and have his fiancee pick him up from base and sleep. Thats all he wanted and thats what he got. No hurt feelings on any sides of the family whatsoever.

  4. This should go without saying. I didn’t see your previous article, but I can’t believe that this is even an issue. Anything other than what the soldiers wants; is just selfish.

  5. 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!

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

    1. 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?

    2. 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.

  8. 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!!!

  9. 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.

  10. 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)..

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

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