Here’s to the ones who wait.
Four months, six months, nine months, maybe even a year or longer, for that warm, strong hug that feels like heaven. For texts, phone calls, homecomings, belated birthday celebrations, and lagging, pixelated Skype dates.
Here’s to the ones who haven’t heard anything yet, but will let you know when they do.
The ones who appreciate your thoughts and prayers but secretly wish they didn’t need them.
The ones who can’t and don’t share on social media, because OPSEC, even when they want to scream from the rooftops that it’s all too much and they need support more than ever before in their lives.
Here’s to the ones who “reintegrate” with a sense of humor about the whole thing. Who can laugh about the realities of welcoming someone home from a war zone, because they know laughter and time have healing powers. The ones who already know how to wait, so what’s a little more waiting?
Here’s to the ones worried that waiting is getting easier. The ones wondering what it means that they’re able to compartmentalize their emotions so well.
Here’s to the strong ones. The sad ones. The quiet ones. The smiling ones who stay busy, busy, busy because they don’t dare slow down.
Here’s to ones who took the less glamorous role, and pay for it daily. The ones who shake off society’s stereotyping and judgment, knowing that maybe no one else will “get it” and accepting the often minimizing, isolating mantle of “spouse”.
Here’s to the ones who wait at home, feeling unseen and unacknowledged, doing the kinds of things they never dreamed of doing:
Here’s to the ones who know the military comes first right now, and it is what it is. The ones who keep chipping away at their own dreams, anyway - an online class here, another job application there.
The ones who married a hero, knowing what it meant. Lonely nights. Dangerous jobs even when not deployed. Sacrifice, distance, worry.
Here’s to the ones who wouldn’t have it any other way, because this love was worth all the sacrifice, and it still is.
The ones who smile and say, “Oh, we’re okay. We’ve got our routine.” Because at some point it stopped just being words - it became true.
Here’s to the ones who do homecoming with style. The ones who make welcome home signs and decorate the house and look amazing in their homecoming outfits, their little girls with red, white, and blue hair bows, their little boys with embroidered t-shirts - “Daddy is my hero.” The ones who star in YouTube homecoming videos that make everyone cry buckets.
And here’s to the ones who drop off his truck the night before, because they’ve done this too many times to count and he can drive himself home. The ones who know that the welcome home hug is just as sweet when it happens in the living room, his dusty gear on the carpet around them.
Here’s to the tired ones. This won’t last forever, sweet friend.
Here’s to the stubborn ones. The ones who say, “I love this life," and mean it.
Here’s to the weak ones. Let us be strong for you.
Here’s to the scared ones. The brave ones. The beautiful ones.
Here’s to the ones who wait.