This past weekend, I went down to Fort Sill in Lawton, Oklahoma to welcome back my brother from deployment. This was his second 9 month deployment. The first time, he was in Afghanistan. This time, he was stationed in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) along with other soldiers who were part of the "presence" that the US is keeping in the Middle East. On their way home, they were flown into Maine and delayed a day because of cancelled flights from snow and ice. But they finally landed around 10:30 on Sunday morning and the welcome back ceremony was at 11:30. It was quite an event. About a 1,000 soldiers from the base showed up and probably 300 family members. My brother said there were 160 soldiers in his unit. They marched into the building, an officer got up and spoke for a few minutes, and then they were dismissed. There was lots of shouting and cheering, crying and laughing. I was privileged to be a part of it. Not only did I get to see my brother who I haven't seen in more than a year, but I was glad I could be there in support of the other soldiers who were coming home. We met one lady who said her husband hadn't met their 3 month old son yet. In fact, we saw probably 6 babies in the crowd that were born while the soldiers were gone.
My parents raised me and my siblings to always give a great deal of respect to those in uniform. My love and admiration for the military only deepened when my sister and then my brother enlisted (older sister in the Air Force, younger brother in the Army National Guard). But it's not just the men and women in the military who deserve our respect. Their families, the husbands and wives, mothers and fathers, siblings and children, they have lots of steel flowing in their veins. The sacrifices that military families make is amazing.
Just for comparison's sake... I went down to For Sill by myself and left Josiah at home with the hubby. I left early on Saturday morning and didn't get back until Sunday evening. It was the longest I'd ever been away from my baby and the first time I'd ever been gone overnight. I had a hard time leaving and was anxious to see him when I got home. I was gone for 2 days and 1 night. Our soldiers say good-bye to their families for 6 months, 9 months, 12 months at a time. They miss births, birthdays, christmas, school events, teeth falling out, first prize at the science fair, picnics, swimming lessons, and parades. They come home and meet their babies for the first time. They come home and their children don't know them. The freedoms we have are due to these men and women and the families who wait for them. They are truly our heroes.