Welcome Home Ceremonies: What are they really like?

For families reuniting after a long military deployment, a Welcome Home Ceremony is an entire spectrum of emotions.

One of my favorite things to do, is take pictures for dear friends of mine to capture some of these moments…

Waiting… Anticipation…

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Excitement to finally see them… Concern about how the children will react…

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Watching them run around and play while the minutes seem to take an eternity…

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And then the moment finally comes… the music starts to play a little louder…

It’s completely surreal…

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Everyone starts cheering… the room is full of electricity…

Is this really happening?  It IS!

IT IS!

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I love watching children at this moment…

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their expressions are completely unguarded…

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Finally, all the soldiers are lined up, and the ceremony can begin…

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Families search the sea of green for a glimpse of their soldier…

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Sometimes they are really easy to find…  Can you guess who this family is waiting for?

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The ceremony is brief… a few words of praise… a prayer to remember those still in harms way…

The national anthem for Germany and our own Star Spangled Banner…

Then they’re released and the room is full of running children, tears, smiles, and palatable relief…

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You’re here. Really here…
and I can touch you….
You smell like a guy’s locker room…
Your smile is still the same…
I can feel your arms around me…
Your kiss is just like I remembered…

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Daddy – Wow – You are a lot bigger than I remember!
You can tell she remembers him – but there are so many unspoken emotions for her too…

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I’m not letting you out of my sight this time…

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Walking home… finally together again…

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The deployment is finally over.  A new chapter of learning to be a family again is about to begin.
But all of those emotions aren’t real yet – instead we’ll just live in the moment.
Because we’re finally together. And all safe and sound.
“You came back Daddy! You came back for me!”

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“Yes I did buddy – Just for you!”

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Have you ever attended a Welcome Home Ceremony?

What are some of the emotions you felt?

Were you Welcoming Home your soldier or supporting a friend?

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About Ann Marie @ Household6 Diva

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14 Responses to “Welcome Home Ceremonies: What are they really like?”

  1. Sarah Says:

    I’ve only been to one welcome home ceremony so far, we were welcoming back some of my husband’s single friends who wouldn’t have had anyone there for them if it hadn’t been for all his friends showing up. It was a great turn out and I’m so glad we all went. I definitely don’t look forward to the day when I’ll know there will be one of those where I’ll be looking for my husband though, possibly with our kids. We’ve avoided it thus far (4 years! The AF is good to us!) but I know it’s only a matter of time.
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  2. Kathy Says:

    Ann Marie – this was such a great idea for a blog post! The pictures tell WAY more than a thousand words!! The one of the little girl with the mix of emotions, though, touches on something I’ve wondered about. As a learner of all things child development, and from my experience teaching little guys, I know that for some very young kids (those with more sensitive, cautious temperaments, for example), events that are BIG with excitement and noise and emotion can be overwhelming and even frightening to them. I love the videos of homecomings with a military parent and child as much as anyone but I’ll bet for every ten that are delightful there is also one that ended in the child bursting into tears or hiding behind their homefront parent. I can’t imagine the disappointment for the returning serviceman and heartache all around.

    So how do parents handle that? What do you do if you know you have a child who is sensitive or you’re not sure how they’re going to react? …or am I off-base? What are your thoughts? suggestions?
    Kathy recently posted..This fact sheet can help you understand and support children when a military par…My Profile

  3. Allison Wilhelm Says:

    Ann Marie-

    This really is incredible photo journalism. My favorite is the picture of their smiles and then “can you tell who their soldier is?” with his beaming face in the rows of solemn soldiers. It brought tears to my eyes. You should submit this somewhere, to something. It is fantastic!

    -Allison
    Allison Wilhelm recently posted..you little lurker, you.My Profile

  4. Holly Says:

    In the almost 10 years we have been together, I have done 6 homecomings. They mean so much more when you have kids I think. Watching their faces light up and hearing their squeals. I will always remember two deployments ago, our son saw his father and screamed “DADDY!” and just took off running towards him. It left us all in tears. This time, the Hubs deployed by himself so he surprised us as his homecoming. He told me that his deployment got extended and he wouldn’t be home until December. Well in November, his best friend asked me to have dinner with him to talk about a homecoming party for him. About 10 minutes into dinner, my husband walked up to the table. I was in shock!!
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  5. Kim Kravitz Says:

    Aw! You did an amazing job on these!!! I love the one of dad in formation with that big smile! Such an awesome image!
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  6. Marquita09 Says:

    I love your family.. You looks so happy and the picture says that you are a perfect family. Your kids are so adorable. Thank you for sharing your joy with your beloved family.

  7. Bonnie Says:

    Oh my. Reading homecoming posts always make me bawl… in a good way :)
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  8. Leanne Says:

    Oh my heart is in my throat and tears are in my eyes. Beautiful pictures (as usual!). What a splendidly happy family. My husband’s welcome home ceremony was a /lot/ more pomp and circumstance then we would have liked. We got to hug them when they got off the bus. (Thanks goodness) but then we had about an hour ceremony to sit through (NOT with them). The boys touched him. We hugged him. I kissed him. Then we had to let go … for what seemed like an eternity. (ok yah, just an hour).

    Thanks for sharing these beautiful photos. Just beautiful.
    Leanne recently posted..A Very Special Valentine’s DayMy Profile

  9. Laura Says:

    I watched and celebrated the return of my husband from Iraq in that same gym over 5 years ago. We celebrated yet another return (stateside) just 6 months ago. Whether we are involved in the Welcome Home ceremonies or not, they always make me all teary-eyed. So happy for the reunited families! (And MAN do I miss Baumholder!)

  10. Nicole Says:

    This post brought tears to my eyes! You did an amazing job conveying all the emotions and joy of a Homecoming. Thank you for sharing your perspective with us!
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  11. marykatharine Says:

    We are tenth months into a deployment … six more to go … these photos make me instantly feel like it’s our time! :) They are great and so true. Such special, priceless moments. Nothing like them. I’ve done this so many times before, but I absolutely CAN.NOT.WAIT to get the chance to do it again!!! Thanks for getting me a little motivated tonight!
    marykatharine recently posted..One Month AgoMy Profile

  12. Melissa Says:

    You captured the range of emotions at seeing your loved one come home and even captured a child’s perspective! Kudos!
    My husband and I have been together over 12 years and the one ceremony that is burned into my mind was back in 2006 when they arrived home from Iraq after having lost 2 pilots. Nothing is worse than the heavy feeling of guilt you feel when you are hugging your husband but your friend will never again hug hers. Those are the hardest homecomings of all.
    We are just mid-way through our deployment and I can hardly wait for our homecoming! Thanks for sharing all the love and excitement through some excellent photojournalism! Hooray for you and Hooray for these families!
    Melissa recently posted..Rearing UglinessMy Profile

  13. Tracy Hall Says:

    About 6 months ago my husband had his Welcome Home ceremony at Fort Campbell. It was in a hanger off the tarmac where the plane landed. However, the heat was so intense that people were having heat exhaustion while waiting. It was so incredibly hot inside or outside. The volunteers had water and snacks but had I known I would have brought handheld fans – I had no idea it would be like an oven inside (literally everyone was wet and sweaty) and it would be like a tanning bed on high outside.

    Despite all that, it was great seeing my husband home, finally. It was not as emotional or earth shattering or anything like that for myself or my son because my husband had R&R 28 days prior – we had just spent 15 days traveling Florida. He was there for a year, and got R&R last minute :) At that point we didn’t care if he got it. But the fact that he was just with us a few weeks prior made the moment less momentous. (It could have been also that we were in the midst of a PCS and I had been packing between R&R and his return home). His boots hit the ground, two days later we were in the car heading back to DC to pack and move to Indianapolis with no down time (he had to being civilian medical training that was put off 2 months due to his late return). I am not insensitive but it was kind of like we are super happy to see you, now, lets move…

  14. Trinity Says:

    This is beautiful. I’m so looking forward to Husband’s return about 10 months from now, though this time Husband is coming home to not only a wife but also a son. Praying our son reacts positively having seen and heard Daddy everyday for a year (thank you, iPad). I love when our troops come home. This post is absolutely lovely.