Meet Natalie, 26, a civilian who works for the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs. Her husband, a captain in the U.S. Army, has been stationed in Afghanistan since March but two days ago he reunited with Natalie, and their 1-year-old daughter, Mikayla, this week. Find out how Natalie and Tommy met and started a family, how they stay connected from halfway around the world – and how stressful the days leading up to the big moment were.
My little family was finally reunited two days ago! We arrived at the Homecoming venue about an hour before the ceremony was to begin, and I gave Mikayla her dinner so that she wouldn’t be tired and hungry when she saw her daddy. When I saw his smiling face march through the doors in formation my heart nearly exploded! Mikayla was mainly wondering why everyone was screaming so much, and didn’t even notice all of the soldiers marching in.
They had a quick prayer, and played the national anthem, Army Song, and Unit Song; Mikayla loved this part, and clapped along to the music. The Commanding General gave a 30 second speech, and released the soldiers. I abandoned my stroller and purse, and sprinted towards my husband. He met us in the middle and gave both of us a huge hug. Mikayla then looked at him with some recognition, but also apprehension and a lot of confusion over the homecoming festivities that were occurring around us.
Tommy then started singing some songs with her that they sang together almost every morning for the past few months. It was pretty incredible because you could see the connection being made in her eyes, and even though she wasn’t quite ready to jump into his arms she was starting to piece it together.
Yesterday I took off work, and we were able to spend the entire day together as a family. Tommy fell right into our routine. Before dinner we took a trip to the park, where I loved watching Mikayla explore with her Dad, and holding his hand while walking around to the different slides.
Our day together ended perfectly with Tommy giving Mikayla her bath, and putting her to bed. The whole time I was in the kitchen fixing dinner, and she did not ask for me or fuss about me not being there. This was such a huge moment for us because it meant that she was comfortable enough to have him care for her. It is one thing to have daddy back as a new playmate at the park, but another feeling altogether for her to accept him as a caregiver, and trust him when she is sleepy and a little cranky.
I am so thankful for their special bond, and for his patience during our reintegration as a family. I know if he had jumped in with two feet that she would have been overwhelmed, and probably a bit intimidated. He allowed her to remain within her comfort zone, and let her dictate their reunion.
Deployments are certainly tough, but they are also a blessing because they remind us to treasure these little moments as a family.