homecoming ceremonies deployment

Who Should Attend Army Homecoming Ceremonies from Deployment?

Part One of Two (see part two here)

In the past few weeks, I’ve received multiple emails from Army spouses asking how to handle other people wanting to be at the homecoming from deployment or when their soldier comes home for R&R.

I promised to address it more “publicly” than just emailing them a response, so here I am.

Now, before I begin, I realize my opinion may not be a popular one, particularly among the parents of married soldiers. But it’s my opinion, so take it or leave it! 🙂

Also, my husband’s unit does things differently than most. For one, they don’t get R&R. So, I’ve never had a happy reunion or tearful goodbye at the airport, although I’ve witnessed many.

Two, we don’t have ceremonies when they leave or return. When he leaves, I drop him off at the company area, and when he returns, I get a call where he says, “I’m home, come pick me up!”.

I used to wish that we would have at least a homecoming ceremony until I went to one for a friend. Then I was glad we don’t have them. That’s torture to have to stare at your soldier and not be allowed to run up to him!

I suppose I’ve stalled enough! So on to the real issue.

homecoming ceremonies deployment
Image credit: U.S. Army

In MY opinion, only the immediate family should be there for the soldier’s return.

If he’s single, then that’s his parents, siblings, and fiancee or girlfriend if he has one.

However, if he’s married, then his immediate family is his wife and children. I can hear all the parents now getting ready to ream me a new one.

I realize it is hard on everyone when a soldier is deployed. I don’t have kids, so I’ve never had a deployed son, and I can’t speak to those emotions.

But I know that unless he moved out of his parent’s house just before the deployment, the big void lay with his immediate family – his wife and kids.

They are the ones who have dealt day to day without his presence. It is their household that was affected when he left.

His wife is the one who slept in an empty bed and handled many of his responsibilities at home. His kids are the ones who no longer had their dad to tuck them in at night.

And that household will also be the one that has to deal with his readjustment after he gets home.

I believe the homecoming should be for them.

At the very least, they should have a few days to reunite on their own terms without worrying about others being there.

They need time to adjust and time to reconnect with each other. Not to worry about entertaining guests. My in-laws have been very respectful about this and have never come to one of his homecomings. And I am eternally grateful for that. We need that time for us.

Since I never get any notice and there isn’t a ceremony, it does make it easier for us.

Sadly, I’ve known many who have had to go to extremes to see this happen, such as keeping the return date a secret or adding two weeks to it.

To all the parents who may be reading this (and I’m sure are steaming mad now), please, at the very least, find out what the wishes of your soldier are and respect whatever it is.

Dealing with redeployment and the huge range of emotions is difficult enough without adding unneeded drama to the situation.

So there you have my opinion on the matter. And you’re more than welcome to leave comments if you wish. I’m a big girl – I can handle it!

(See part two on homecoming ceremonies)

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. I completely agree with this… When my husband left for deployment his family was with us I almost felt like a third wheel if his dad wasn’t talking to him then his mom was talking to him I didn’t get to tell him the things I wanted I didn’t show him how much I’d miss him it was more like saying goodbye to an acquaintance and his mother cried so I held back my tears because I fe as though my last moments were stolen from me now… Now here we are 11 months later counting down days for his return and now his family wants to be here for his return. I don’t want to be the one to have to tell them that!

  2. I feel it’s up to the couple in particular but I don’t think I’d want to stir up trouble if my guy wanted to invite people I didn’t care for. I would expect to be able to voice my own concerns and feelings on the matter but ultimately if that’s what he wanted, then I’d go along with it. We aren’t married yet and I believe his parents do hope to be there when he returns from his upcoming deployment, but that’s okay with me. I’d prefer it be just us on that day but at the same time, I’ll be flying in from across the country and I would be open to having them there to coordinate with, such as us 3 renting a car and a place to stay together.

    I met my boyfriend online over a year ago when he was in Afghanistan. He and his previous girlfriend had broken up just a couple months prior and he was really in need of someone he could trust to talk to. So, with that previous relationship ended (since before it’d been assumed that she would greet his return), he had no one waiting for him. It was incredibly hard on him and he is still so grateful that I was 100% available to him that evening, though several states away and limited to phones. We’ve been together over a year now and he’s preparing for his second deployment and I fully intend to be there to greet him upon his return.

    I read a few stories on here of women who are able to see their guy every month, or even every week. That would be amazing, but the reality for me is that I see him a few times a year. We lucked out in some ways – while his parents and one sibling still live in MN, his two other siblings have relocated to central Texas (where I am). We were able to meet when he was visiting his brothers post-deployment, spend his winter block leave together visiting both here and Minnesota, I visited him in May for a week, and then he spent his summer leave (2 weeks) here in Texas again.

    I also read some stories about rather quick marriages, and I do want to say – I know it’s really hard being apart and not being recognized by the Army as an official partner to your soldier, but be careful of rushing into marriage for arrangements to be more convenient. My friend married her college sweetheart-turned-Army-Ranger and, though he’s now a firefighter and they have purchased a home in Colorado together, she and I agree that we’d rather take the time to feel fully committed. I love my boyfriend, but we aren’t ready to get married before this upcoming deployment. It would make me feel uncomfortable but then I’m a fairly cautious person. The current timeline is to get engaged when he returns, see what course his Army career takes (he’s very interested in Green to Gold for his Masters degree), and go from there.

    Another issue is my career – I’m very open to just working part time or even just managing the household, but as we are currently undecided regarding future children (we definitely don’t want any for a while at least!), that would feel like a waste of my time and not worthy of his long hours while I sit at home. I haven’t been able to get my career started yet and I don’t NEED a shiny career of achievements, but with no kids at home I worry it would be frustrating to be unemployed due to no job opportunities for me wherever we are stationed. So, in the year or two (or more) before we could be married and live together, my focus is to support him and work on my career. Hopefully if I can find either GIS or wildlife biology employment somewhere in the meantime (as I have education in both) then I’d be better qualified to find similar work wherever we are sent for PCS. Part of it is keeping me busy and being an equal partner in how much I contribute and work and, related to that, the other part is making sure I am contributing financially, especially as he doesn’t earn much and we both have student loans. I don’t want to assume that I could hitch myself to him and expect him to provide for our household AND whatever I may need. I have my own car, my own student loans – therefore both the means and the education to at least TRY for my own employment!! If he was higher ranked, then perhaps I could ‘keep busy’ with volunteering, but maybe I’m just a ‘modern woman’ in that I find it ridiculous to expect him to provide 100% when I’m educated and perfectly competent, myself. That said though, I dare not EXPECT to get employed anywhere we move. Too many Army wives are unemployed because there simply aren’t any opportunities in that area for them.

  3. This is exactly the kind of thing I stress about. Don’t want to hurt feelings but no one seems to really get it. I’m glad someone is on the same page as me as as fellow army wife. Thank you for posting this.

  4. Question not comment. Yesterday, Mother’s Day, my son left for his first deployment. He came by Saturday only because he was returning a vehicle we loaned him prior to deployment so he didn’t have to buy a new one/repair a problem with old one. No big deal you do these things for family. I asked for probably the fourth time if there was a ceremony for family to see them off and he said no that they would car pool over and leave and say goodbyes at home. I hugged him and told him I loved him. The next afternoon, while being sad but stoic about the deployment, I look at FB and find all these pictures of our troops with their families at a big send off. My son’s wife and daughter were there as were his best friend (also deploying) his gf and mother and brother. I called my sons dad and said did you know about this and he said yes he’d been invited. I’m hurt and confused. Please advise how to handle this.

    1. I’m so sorry. It’s one thing if a soldier only wants his spouse/kids at the ceremony but wants to say goodbye (or hello upon return) separately and it’s completely another to expand beyond that and include one parent and not the other. I’m very sorry that your feelings were hurt by this as I would feel the same in your situation. I’m glad you were at least able to see him before he left though.

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