At the beginning of this deployment, as the weeks and months seemed to stretch endlessly ahead of me, there were times when I really had to pull myself together and focus on the day ahead, and nothing else. Because the thought of filling all that time, between then and now, seemed overwhelming at times. Quite literally I could choke on those overwhelming feelings.

When Brooks and I met in high school, what seems like ions ago, it’s probably safe to say we were pretty inseparable. Overnight, it seemed like, we became the best of friends. And we realized early on that we’d get married. Which looking back now seems crazy. We were so young. But we just knew.

And then of course, when Brooks considered joining the armed forces the Navy seemed like the worse choice. Six months at sea each year? That seemed painful. So the Army it was. Five deployments later, regardless of the cost that we’ve borne, I can’t say I have regrets. That choice was made. And we’ve lived with it and embraced it. Because the alternate would have colored everything we did in such a crazy, negative way.

And even then, even with accepting and embracing and working through each moment these last ten years, even then, it hasn’t always been easy to swallow. Missing Brooks is incredibly painful. I miss my best friend when he’s not here. I miss how home truly feels like home with him here. I miss his laughter and our long endless conversations. I miss how often he tells me I’m amazing because I’ve done something that makes him laugh or shake his head, or both. I miss seeing him with Little B, the father that I never got to witness in my own home growing up. I miss stolen kisses and the promise for future ones.

Waking up this morning, knowing that before the day was through Brooks would be in our arms again, there was something humbling about that. Right next to Cooper Field, where the homecoming ceremonies are held, is a memorial for the soldiers lost in Iraq and Afghanistan. Five deployments and Brooks has come back to us time after time. That is incredibly humbling. I’ve never been able to go pick up Brooks without remembering that some of the guys Brooks has served with didn’t get to come home to their families. I remember them because they need to be remembered. Not just on homecoming days or Memorial Day. They should never be forgotten.

So today we welcomed our soldier home. Little B and I kept busy all day and before we knew it it was time to drive the few minutes it takes us to get to Cooper Field. The weather was drizzly, and dreary. I’m not sure anyone really cared.

And then, when the buses drove up, that’s when the first tears began to flow. Because it was finally over. We’d done it and we could move on with whatever came next. Brooks would be with us in a few short minutes.

When Little B finally caught sight of his Daddy he wept. It broke my heart. It dawns on me that my Little B works hard to keep from me the fact that these deployments are hard for him. As his Daddy held him, tears streaming down his face, I just saw pure relief etched there. His Daddy was home and all was well again. As we waited for Brooks to pick up his bags BB asked me a few times if his Daddy would be home for at least a year.  And that broke my heart too.

For now we’ll focus on the day to day. We’ll enjoy each day for what it is. We won’t take each other for granted, we’ll have long drawn out conversations over the dining room table as we eat, we’ll laugh often, we’ll squeeze the joy out of each day. And if the time comes for Brooks to leave us again, we’ll face it together, with dignity and grace and a determination, as always, to honor Brooks’s sacrifices.

Life is incredibly sweet. Today more so than others. So grateful for another deployment ending!