Welcome Home Soldier

Sunday, May 25, 2014
Wow. Can you believe it's been one full year since Justin returned home from Afghanistan? I sit here this morning, and I'm completely moved by all of the blessings we have received since Justin's deployment ended. Of all the blessing we have received, I am so grateful that Justin was able to experience parenthood with me, and not over Skype calls or videos. I am so grateful that every hard moment we experienced this past year, I was comforted with hugs/kisses and not an email. More than anything, we were just beyond blessed to have our family whole and together. I don't know what it feels like to not have Justin around Ava and I for really long periods of time, and I am so thankful for it.

I can still recall the moments leading up to his homecoming ceremony. I remember being ancy ALL day long. His ceremony wasn't until later in the evening, and I had the worst jitter bugs ever. I had Ava's outfit picked out weeks prior to the day, but I didn't know what I was going to wear. I'm pretty sure I ended up wearing my favorite maternity dress that I wore as often as possible. I was still so exhausted and hot (thank you Georgia weather) from adjusting to a newborn, and the summer heat.

The time passed by so slowly that day, I could not believe that our deployment chapter was finally coming to an end. The moment I had been waiting for since that past October was finally here. I didn't cry as much as I expected myself to, in fact I didn't burst out in tears until I was actually in his arms. I imagine giving birth just eight days prior had a lot to do with my emotions. Since a picture is worth 1,000 words, here is a little scroll from our homecoming experience that I have never shared (photo cred: Victoria Simmons).

We didn't see him right away, in fact I'm pretty sure he responded to his name being called out. That first moment you see your soldier is something completely indescribable. Your fears cease within that  moment. Your worries, your pessimism, all of those things cease to exist. All I felt was an overflow of relief and happiness. I felt so many things at one time, I'm sure that's why I started crying. I just held him so tightly. I didn't let go for a couple of minutes. He let me sob on his shoulder, and that moment was really just perfect. Following that, was the first time Ava was in Justin's arms. I could tell he was nervous, especially since Ava bug started crying for a feeding shortly after. One of the first things he said when he saw her was, "I can't believe how small she is."

Reuniting with Justin after an (almost) nine month deployment will always be a defining moment in our marriage. It was truly a test of love and faith for us, and we came out on top. 

This past year of my life has been the most incredible year I have ever experienced. You guys have no idea how thankful I am that I get to write a post like this. The downside of deployments are when the soldier's and their families don't get happy endings like this. I am grateful to live in a country where our men and women who serve in the armed forces risk their lives for our freedom. They fight for this country, and I am forever indebted to not only those serving, but the fallen as well. My prayers are always with those who are deployed, and their families that are left on the home front. We are the land of the free because of the brave, and I will never take that for granted. Happy Memorial day to our fallen Veterans, and our current Veterans. You truly are gems placed on this earth and my family is so grateful for you! 

Happy Sunday all! 

♥- Leilani

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