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Today was that day. That wonderful, beautiful, special day. That day that I came home to my wife, my three kids, and my dog. Being out in the scorching desert got very tiring after the first few days, and after the first couple days of fighting, of fear gripping at your heart everywhere you turned, coming home was definitely a relief. Especially since I hadn’t been there for two Christmas’s. My kids need me.
So, jumping into that helicopter to come back to the States, my heart was pounding about as fast as the rotor blades. A smile spread across my face as I saw that seemingly endless expanse of ocean, and knew it was only a matter of time before I got back home.
I closed my eyes, and my head filled with visions of my wife running out to me, her skirt flailing behind her as she ran, her hair billowing in the wind, perfect like silk. Her arms extended as she neared me, and I could almost feel her arms wrap around me, embrace me tightly, pressing my body against hers. I could see the three children running out, their feet slapping against the warm pavement. Ben, Daniel, and Sarah all lining up to give papa a hug.
As I opened my eyes to come out of my daydream, I noticed that the other soldiers were looking at me with slight confusion and discomfort. They had never seen me cry, and as I noticed that a steady stream of tears were rolling down my cheeks, I cleared my throat and quickly wiped them away, but my smile never faded.
As we reached Fort Bragg, my heart began racing even faster than before. My breathing turned into short gasps of air, and I could hear my pulse in my head, drumming against my temples. I closed my eyes once more to gain control, but adrenaline washed over me.
We were escorted out of the chopper, and, carrying all of our gear with us, I tripped and slid on several accounts, my excitement causing me to lose my balance. We were divided into small groups of twos and threes, and we were lined up to our escorting cars. I was with another soldier who I didn’t know, but had seen once or twice in the line of command.
I smiled respectfully at her, saluting her, and then got in the car, closing the door ever so lightly, careful not to slam it. When the car jolted forward, my heart did the same. My eyes raced back and forth at the houses, and I vaguely recognized each and every one, and I knew that I was close to my home.
When the car stopped, I almost gasped, as I saw my wife, my three kids, and the yellow Labrador at the front porch. My wife was crying, and the two youngest children, Ben and Daniel, 8 and 9, were hanging on to her, concerned but not sad. The eldest, Sarah, 11, was smiling, tears streaming steadily down her face.
I opened the door my hand fumbling with the handle several times, and stepped out slowly. I closed my eyes once to regain control, and then I shut the door behind me, and began to walk quickly toward my family.
Three sets of arms were already wrapped around my by the time I got onto the driveway, and I swept up Ben and Daniel in my arms, holding them close, and hooked Sarah in the group with my right arm, and I began to weep quietly, but tears were quite obvious.
The dog was barking, tail wagging violently back and forth, and he ran up to me, jumping up so his paws landed on my shoulder, and began licking my face, kisses they would be called in our family. Oddly enough, his warm tongue felt good on my face, and I smiled, kissing the top of his head lightly, and he jumped off, going to my wife and back to me, racing back and forth. He wanted her to join the group.
But she couldn’t. She was still standing there, stunned, crying, sobbing, loudly, tears streaming down her face like two crystalline rivers. I got up, putting the kids down gently, and walked over to her, kissing her forehead once, twice, three times, then her nose, and finally worked my way to her soft lips, planting a kiss and leaving it there for a few moments before wrapping my arms around her.
I pulled her in close, and her arms found their way around me, holding me just as tightly, if not, more. Her face was buried deep in the crook of my neck, and I could feel her warm tears wet against my skin. It felt good, and I traced my hands up and down her back, rubbing up and down to comfort her.
“J-John I have missed you so, so, so much!” She exclaimed, and her tears became slower, before they finally stopped, and she sniffed inwards loudly, and pulled back, planting several kisses on my face. The feelings at that moment that I felt were immense.
Emotions washed over me like a hurricane, pouring out of me and crashing into me again. Love, excitement, adrenaline, happiness, relief, and a million other things were coursing through my mind, my heart, my soul at once, and I picked her up by the hips, and spun her around, doing several 360s before putting her down and hugging her close again, and planted a kiss on her neck as she did on mine.
I will never forget that day. That wonderful, glorious, enchanted, beautiful day 20 years ago. To this day, the kids have grown up and joined the army. My wife is a doctor, and I am a retired veteran, proud to have helped my country. The day that I came home has been planted in my mind, rooted there, never to leave. I think of that day when I get up for breakfast, and when I go to sleep. I dream it, and sometimes I even live it. I am proud, to be a veteran.