Military Homecoming and Reintegration
Military Homecoming and Reintegration
The big day has finally arrived. Homecoming Day! All of the worrying and waiting is at an end. Months of living without your service member has come to an end.
Day of Homecoming
On the day your spouse is due to return from deployment, several things will possibly happen. One of them will probably be spilling coffee on your favorite shirt. You may find yourself changing clothes multiple times. The cat may get out 30 minutes before you’re supposed to be at the airport, pier, etc. One child is cranky and the other is so excited they can’t stop screaming. No one has slept in the last 24 hours. The welcome home sign you made looks like your 5 year old made it. All of this is quite normal and okay. It’s Homecoming Day!
Homecoming may occur at any time during the day or night. Yes, that means the ship can tie up pier side at 1400 hours (2:00pm) or the plane can land at 0300 hours (3:00am). A few days or so prior to the service members return, a notice goes out to spouses, family, etc. with an approximate time of arrival. The emphasis is on approximate. So that means that everyone needs to have patience and be flexible. If it’s a late night arrival and you have small children, or it’s a school night, you’ll have to decide whether or not to get a sitter. There are benefits and drawbacks to both scenarios. If you do bring children with you, bring snacks and games for them as well. It might be a lengthy wait.
But finally the wait is over and there is your service member, scanning faces in the crowd, looking for yours. It can be an incredible feeling and an emotionally intense moment for both of you. One, or both of you, may cry tears of joy and the world might seemingly melt away until it is just the two of you. Hold on to that feeling.
It’ll take your service member a bit of time to get back into the swing of things at home. Things have changed. They’ve changed. You’ve changed. Children have grown. The first few weeks are a time to reconnect. Sometimes the service member will have a reduced work load, time off, or perhaps they’ve taken leave (vacation). These first few weeks can be idyllic, with the whole family going off on vacation, or just being back together again at home. But it can also be stressful. You’re sharing space again and you’ve rearranged the furniture and your service member keeps putting X back where it used to go, but Y goes there now. While it can feel like a honeymoon in some respects, in others it can be a serious adjustment period. The best advice is to give it a bit of time and set aside any frustrations for a few weeks. It’s normal to feel torn between lovey dovey and resentful. Focus on the fact that your love is home, with you, finally, after all this time. If you’ve made major changes in the home and/or your lives while they were deployed, discuss it with them as soon as possible. Giving them a “head’s up” will help them adjust to the changes quicker.
After a few weeks have passed the “honeymoon” might feel like it is over. It’s time to get back to work, school, life, etc. It can be bittersweet. In some cases, life will continue almost as if the service member never left. They’ll reintegrate right back into family life with absolutely no problems. However, there are times when things experienced on deployment can shake up the service member and change the way they see and relate to the civilian world. If you find that your spouse is acting odd or unlike themselves, sit them down if possible, and try to talk with them about it. They may just need to talk, or they may need a professional counselor/therapist to help them work through whatever issue has come up. There is no shame in asking for help and being supportive will go a long way to helping them integrate back into family life. The counselors at the support centers on your installation can best assist the service member in getting the necessary help.
If there are no issues to resolve, this is the perfect time to start sharing the family responsibilities with your service member. Sometimes it’s hard. You’ve been doing it all by yourself for however many months and reorganizing the chores, etc. might seem like a chore in itself, but it’s important. This allows the service member to have a stake in family life, as it were.
If you find that after a couple of months your relationship is still not quite where you want it, check out one of the marriage/relationship retreats. Military branch specific links are provided below.
Coast Guard, Marine Corps, Navy – http://www.cnic.navy.mil/regions/cnrsw/om/CREDO/Programs/Marriage.html
You can also contact family support for a couple’s counseling session. It can help get your marriage back on track. Deployments can be a stressful time for the whole family. Returning from deployments can be a stressful time as well. You deserve to have a happy marriage and a happy family.
Family is important to the military. They want their service members to have loving and fulfilling family lives.