homecoming ceremonies deployment
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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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105 Comments

  1. Question been dating a soilder for a few months now and he is currently deployed, he stated that he would be home in December, but woudnt know a definate date till November, he states he wants me to be at the homecoming ceremony , he states that the base at FtLewis usually has one and he wants me there, problem is I live in another state , my question is how do I go about findning out if and when the base will have one, he gave me is unit name and all the info pertaining to him. And if Im able to go will I be able to get on base to attend. He states he doesnt want me stressed cause he knows when he gets the date of his arrival home it gonna be short notice , what do I do?

    1. He’s right about not knowing dates/times until the last minute. I’m not sure how the FRG works if you’re not a spouse, but they are helpful with these things. You should be able to get on Ft Lewis but will have to get a pass. They usually will have tentative dates so you should be able to get an idea of when to be there. So bottom line is if you can get there, you will be able to attend.

  2. My fiance is currently deployed and he won’t return home until next year. It’s supposed to be a nine month deployment. Before he deployed, we were living together and are planning on getting married a month after he returns home. Since he has been gone his family has done nothing but ask him for money and tell him everything that’s wrong in their lifes. Never anything positive. He finally told them he doesn’t have the money to give them because we are getting married and that we are wanting to save money so when we decide to have our own family we don’t have to worry about money. We did enough of that having an apartment on single soldier pay and my checks. His family knew he was deploying but he didn’t invite them to come so of course they blamed me and said I was the reason he didn’t invite them to go. They expected me to invite them. Since we no longer had our apartment, we had to stay at his buddies and his wife’s house, along with his family. It was nothing but their family drama and we did not get to enjoy our last few days together. I know if my fiancés family comes to his homecoming it will be just like his buddies family and I felt so sorry for his wife and baby. It’s like a competition or something. I’m getting a hotel room for his homecoming and if his family goes they can get their own room and drive themselves . Sounds mean but I want to enjoy him coming home since I didn’t get to enjoy my last few days before deployment with him. His family hasn’t been to anything since he has been in but now that he’s engaged, they wanna be.

  3. Under the conditions you wrote, I would agree the wife and children be at the homecoming. But in my case, my son got married 1 month before he left. They never lived together. His new wife has lived with me for 2 years, before the marriage and after. My son was deployed when his daughter was born, again I was there and now new wife and new baby lived with me. I wanted to be present at his homecoming to see my “baby” and to see his face when he looks and hold his own daughter for the first time. My husband and I were staying at a hotel and staying less than 24 hours.
    They planned their wedding so quickly we could not be present for that either.
    One hurt Momma

    1. I realize I’m late to the party here, but I can’t stop myself…

      Frankly, it shouldn’t matter if they married 2 hours before he deployed, they are MAN and WIFE. Is their union less scared than yours to your husband? Would you have put up with that nonsense if you had JUST married your husband before he deployed, and had to carry and birth his child without him? Do you honestly see yourself as an equivalent to your son’s WIFE in his life?? How selfish. Your poor daughter-in-law.

      I married my soldier less than a month before he deployed, and carried and delivered his son while he was away. It was awful, heartbreaking, and incredibly difficult. My husband and I made it through because of the strength of our commitment and our unwavering love for one another.

      Like you, my mother-in-law felt ENTITLED to be at his homecoming ceremony. She caused such a scene in the days after he returned that she has ruined our relationship with her, and we no long speak with her.

      Please stop and consider how you might feel if it were YOUR husband, and you had carried his child. Try to consider the strain you might put on your son’s marriage by asking him to put you above his WIFE AND BRAND NEW BABY. Would you have felt that his mother had as much right to be there as you? Probably not.

      They made vows. One of those was likely to forsake all others… that includes you.

    2. Like the other person said, it does not matter when they were married. They are man and wife. If he had been home when his daughter was born do you think your daughter in law would have wanted you in the room and be able to see your sons face the first time he sees his daughter, I would think not. That moment is for them, not you! Also if they have not ever lived together then they need their alone time that much more to get situated it’s a major change for all 3 of them and your son and HIS little family are most important at this that! Not to mention if they planned a wedding and you weren’t able to make it, there was probably a reason such as this! You are being extremely selfish and need to cut the cord! I hope you didn’t ruin this for them, and your relationship with them…

  4. Been there, done that. Don’t be selfish when your service member comes home. It is a BIG event and everyone is different. If you have M-I-L issues, that’s too bad but get over it. If he/she wants Mommy there, you need to put your big girl panties on and smile, smile, smile. Your soldier/sailor/airman should call the shots on this. Ask them what they want and PLEASE do not lie about it to other people who are asking. If they want 50 people there plus the dog, that is A-OK. And if he/she really wants just the spouse and the kiddoes, that’s okay too. It’s not about you.

  5. Sorry but when you’re married it’s NOT just your call anymore. Mommy needs to cut the cord and let her child have his/her own family. Coming down later is okay, but I believe the actual Homecoming is for immediate family only. When our guys come home there is a reception for the families then everyone goes out to see the ship/helicopter. Mommy and daddy don’t have to adjust their household when their kid is gone, the spouse does. It’s the spouse that takes care of the children and pets when their husband/wife are gone.
    My big girl panties were on when I got married. Looks like mommy is the one that needs to put hers on.

  6. It may not be about me, but it is about US. Those are the vows we took. I think it should be up to both partners to agree. And if they can’t, then that’s just sad. I’m totally with Stacy on this one.

  7. My husband comes home soon and his mom wants to be there. DH and I both have confessed to each other that we would like it to be just us. But I said, and he agrees, that if his parents want to go then I will not try to dissuade them but I wouldn’t encourage it either. As a mom, I try to empathize with how I would feel if my son were gone. I’d want to see him. I hope that I would understand that wife and kids get first priority but I am not going to hold it against my mother-in-law for not understanding that.

    So, I am going to just grin and bear it.

  8. im confused b/f is coming home from Aghanistan he asked for a transfer home Canada received and email here is what he said
    “it seems the military are going to contact you thru email or phone to make some verification about us cos they are always concerned about our welfare. Actually I don’t know what they are going to ask”

  9. My husband was granted paternity leave after the birth of our son during his deployment. When he got his orders he told me not to tell anyone he would be home. I picked him up from the airport and we spent 2 days together bonding as a family before we drove to his parents house to surprise them. They were overjoyed and the fact he had already been home for 2 days didn’t matter to them but I have amazing in-laws. My husband has requested from me that we approach him coming home from deployment in the same way. Only this time after he gets settled we plan on having a big dinner with the whole family. I think its up to the soldier what they want and everyone needs to respect that lucky for me my in-laws were not hurt by us not telling them they were just happy to see him and I was happy to let them pass him around because I had already gotten 2 undisturbed days with him 🙂

  10. Although I haven’t had to deal with this yet (my boyfriend just left for bootcamp) this is a good thing to keep in mind. I personally feel, having zero experience what-so-ever with army life, that it should be who he wants there. If he wants his parents, wife and kids there, great. If he only wants his wife and kids or just his wife, that’s great too. I feel it should be what he wants. Personally, I know I would rather it just be me, but for the time being, his parents should be there if that’s his wishes. If it ever comes down to this for us in the future, I hope that it does end up just being who is under his roof. I’m thinking that this won’t even be a big problem for us though because both of our families are from MA and I don’t think flying wherever to see your son come home would be polite unless he asked for you to do so (and got clearance with the wife).

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