My alarm went off. It was 4am Saturday, August 6th. Even though I had gone to bed at 10pm the night before I couldn’t have slept more than a couple of hours. Today was the day. The one we had been counting towards since that morning we said goodbye in the parking lot of the armory, watching the bus drive off and wiping away tears. It had finally arrived. We had crossed off all of the days on the calendar, taken down all the ‘links’ on the paper chain, and eaten all of the ‘daddy’ kisses. 7 months I had gone without my husband. 7 months they had gone without their daddy. 200 days.
200 days we had operated as a family of four instead of five. 200 days I had been both woman and man of the house, acted as both mother and father, comforter and protector, friend and enforcer. 200 days we spent co-parenting via email, telephone calls, and the occasional skype. 200 days of good and bad, milestones and celebrations.
At 4am I was literally shaking. From excitement, nerves, and anticipation. I had everything ready. The house had been cleaned, the signs were hung, and the children were dressed head to toe in their patriotic red, white, and blue. I had found the perfect dress and my hair was done just right. We were ready!
I drove our decorated car the 20 miles down to base, although I don’t remeber actually driving, as if in a dream. The children were antsy. They knew today was the day their family would be whole again. We arrived at the PAX terminal to find ourselves amongst 100 other families all full of the same excitement and anticipation. We waited, we chatted, we moved outside and then…there is was.
As we watched the plane decend from the sky and onto the runway, the band began to play, and the crowd was cheering. Moms, Dads, Wives and Children holding their signs proudly. This is what we had been waiting for. This is what had gotten us through those 200 days and nights. The plane touched down right in front of us and every emotion that I had experienced in the past 7 months washed over me. I felt my eyes well up with tears, with joy and relief. They were HOME! The door opened and one by one more than 100 Marines filed out of the plane and down the stairs…