Today we headed to the airport to send off my mother-in-law after her visit with us over the holidays. We bid our farewells and then Daniel and I went on our way. As we were heading towards the exit we saw Soldiers in uniform. It's amazing how quickly emotions creep up on you, I found myself suddenly holding back tears. I watched as one family welcomed their Soldier home for his R&R leave. The emotions are indescribable. I know because I have felt them. Such elation you feel in those first few moments. As we continued to walk we came upon another Soldier who was leaving. I was really fighting back the tears then. That second goodbye is so much harder then the first. As we were walking back to our truck, I really thought about the emotions I was feeling. I know I'm a big sap when it comes to Soldiers anyway but what was it about those scenes?
I started thinking about the whole deployment process. Here at Fort Hood, we bid farewell to our Soldiers in their unit area. We don't get to see the plane take off. We say goodbye and they load up on ugly white buses and that is the last time we have a chance to touch them, kiss them, hug them until that reunion at the airport. I know for me many of the emotions I feel when Kevin comes home for R&R have to do with the fact that I know he is leaving in a few short days. No matter what you have planned for those 15-18 days, you have the fact that they are leaving again looming over you. So immediately upon their arrival, the countdown is on. When it's time for them to leave, it's so hard. You lay awake in bed looking at them, trying to memorize every feature of their face. I touch Kevin, his hair, his arm, his cheek. I close my eyes and try to take a mental picture to tuck away into my heart, hoping it will last the duration of deployment.
I know for me part of the overwhelming emotions has to do with the peace you feel when you have your Soldier physically with you. For 15-18 days you don't worry so much about them. You're not waiting for the knock on your IM signaling that your Soldier has signed on. You're not checking your watch to see that it's time for him to be signed on and wondering why and then looking to see if anyone in his unit is signed in on MySpace or messenger. You know the clues for bad things. For those glorious 15-18 days you don't worry about ringing phones or doorbells, Class A's don't fill you with fear.
When you take your Soldier back to the airport, when you pull into the lane that identifies the parking lot, that peace ends and the worry comes back. I think that's why it's so much harder to say that second goodbye. You have a lapse from worry only to have it smack you in the face again.
As I got in the truck and buckled up, all those memories rushed me. Kevin hasn't been home yet on R&R this go round and I look forward to being together again for that short time. I'm ready for all those emotions, the good and the bad because it will mean my Soldier was home.
It's amazing the emotions an airport can spark.