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Welcome Back, San Jacinto!

Two days before he was supposed to be back, I mentioned my brother's homecoming to my friend who’s non-military. “You’re gonna dance?” I laughed at that moment, realizing not everybody understands what homecoming is or how important and exciting it can be for both sides - the returner and the welcomer. She thought it was a dance, but this was infinitely better. No dance could rival what was to happen.

It was difficult to stay positive over the months of him being away - every milteen knows that, be it their parents, siblings, aunts, or uncles who're gone. It’s so frustrating to stay happy through those times, living off of letters and phone calls.

But those days leading up to his homecoming? Those were the most pressuring (in my super important opinion). Sleepless nights, watching the clock, writing down the date and time in my calendar. Enthralling. Before I knew it, it was the night before, then the morning before... My brother’s ship was in the news, ‘U.S San Jacinto pulls into Norfolk.” We drove to the pier as I heard of it on the radio, my sweaty palms clutching the sign for my brother. It's the little things that make it so worth it to be there.

Skipping school? Doesn’t matter. It was nine months, I wanted to be in the front row. I found several sailors on the ship that could have been him. Imagine how difficult it is to find a skinny guy with a mustache and glasses on a ship of hundreds of men and women. Apologies to the random sailor that wasn’t my brother whom I aggressively pointed to and waved at. I knew I was an impatient person, but in these moments I couldn’t pray harder that my brother would get off that ship any faster.

I kept searching through the rows of sailors, all impatiently waiting to get off to their children, spouses, siblings, even parents. Sailors with all the stories to tell, and I couldn’t wait to see the sailor with the special stories of Rhoda, Italy and so many more. The sailor that has been my brother for the past fourteen, nearly fifteen years, the sailor that joined the Navy when I was nine. The one who has been away for all too long.

I think in the hour or so that we waited, I cried three times. In those moments, I realized that the military homecoming videos of families reuniting are even sadder and more beautiful in real life. And then, at last, there he was! I didn’t cry though, not until we had to drop him off later. I was too happy to cry.

Most people overlook military siblings, you rarely hear about us. But there's nothing I wouldn’t do to have my sibling to bicker or fight with. I wanted him back. And there he was. It was nine months since I had my older brother next to me, and I couldn’t have missed him more (don’t tell him that though, he’ll get an ego!). Every military family experiences the distance - nobody likes deployment, especially extended ones. I have stronger words for that, but I think I’ll keep those to myself.

On the car ride home, he showed us photos of what he ate on the ship - I for sure wasn’t hungry for breakfast after that. He talked about all of the places they stopped: restaurants and monuments and more. It was all so interesting; the way he described it made me feel like I was standing right there next to him. A few questionable souvenirs and tons of tales later, it finally settled in - he was back to stay. He won't leave us behind in his wake again.

I’ve written about all three deployment topics, the big trifecta: how to stay positive during deployments, how much extensions suck, and now the relief of homecoming. Specifically, though, I didn’t know how to put this topic into justifiable words because we all know how this feels. Sometimes there just aren't proper words to fit the situation. It’s hard to explain to others outside of this life how you feel, especially if there's unseen pressure to keep it in, but don’t.

Express your feelings; we all understand. Just like you can't enjoy a roller coaster by sitting still and placid, you can't enjoy life without letting out your emotions. Be it feelings of despondency, indignation, or elation, they don't deserve to stay inside you.


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