It's the month of homecomings here at Fort Campbell. The Brigade to which we are attached is on their way back from Afghanistan and droves of friends and acquaintances are getting hints at when the plane holding their soldier may return to US ground.
The whole experience has given me a front row seat for watching sheer joy. They fret gleefully over their homecoming outfits. They ready their houses. They hurry to finish all of those deployment projects they said they were going to do but never really got around to before right now.
And they are nervous. If it's their first homecoming they are worried over how everything will play out. Will it go exactly as planned? Will he even be the same person he was when he left?
Making sure they make it through the days before homecoming is like a full time job. I want to be the steadying helper that can get them to the moment of reunion without a nervous break down (for them or me).
But how? What is the secret to being a great homecoming friend? Here are our top three tips.
3 Ways to be a Great Homecoming Friend1. Be the voice of reason.
To the person waiting for their servicemember after nine (or three, or 12, or seven, or whatever) long months, everything is freak out worthy. And dramatic things seem like really good ideas. Wearing nothing but an overcoat to the homecoming ceremony? Yes! Painting the entire house three days before he arrives so it looks extra fresh? Why not!
Since your judgement hasn't been clouded by emotion, you get to be the voice of reason. How about sexy lingerie under an actual dress instead of nothing under an overcoat? And a deep cleaning party in her house will probably turn out better (and involve fewer fumes) than all of that paint. Be gentle but firm -- your friend needs your help to calm down all her happy-high emotions.
2. Be the steady arm.
Along with the happy high may come a lot of worry. Will he be OK? What if he has PTSD? What if he has changed completely over his time gone? What will the first night back be like?
All of those are reasonable worries -- to a point. Your friend can (and probably should) attend some of the endless reintegration briefings the unit will no doubt give. But you can be the source of reasonable help on this one, too.
Arm yourself with resource suggestions and the words "no matter what happens, you can work through it one step at a time."
Suggest she look into the free counseling offered through Military One Source -- either for just her or for them as a couple. A counselor specially trained in helping couples work through communication problems may be just the ticket for a folks who havent spent time together in almost a year.
3. Be present.
Does she need someone to be a second opinion on the perfect homecoming outfit? Go shopping (this may be your only chance to keep her from thinking lingerie as clothes is a good idea).
Has the day of arrival finally come? Help her burn time before the ceremony (but skip the coffee -- she's probably already jittery enough!) and then arm yourself with a camera and go to the ceremony.
Because this is her moment in all of its nervous, every-second-imagined-a-thousand-times crazy emotion. So wave that American flag, cheer as loudly as you can, and bask in her joy.