Sara glaringly looked at her watch again. The plane had landed almost 10 minutes ago and her anxiousness was starting to get the better of her. She shook the sign that she held in her hands as the other women and children around her bustled and brimmed with anticipation. It had been the longest 9 months they had ever had together, or rather, apart, and now she stood there in the terminal, waiting.
Hadn’t she waited long enough? Why couldn’t they just let the men off the plane so they could come home? Why couldn’t they just get on with it already? Her hands started ringing the cardboard sign almost tearing the paper that she had worked so hard over the last two weeks to get just right. It had to be just right. For him.
The woman standing next to her reached over and touched her shoulder, startling her out of her thoughts and causing her to jump. “First deployment?” she asked. An inviting smile on her face disarming Sara’s immediate desire to be left alone.
“That obvious?” Sara responded back to this new woman, her hands relaxing a bit on the sign.
“Not so much.” the lady lied as her eyes smiled back at Sara and they both let out a laugh.
“Is this yours?” Sara tried engaging back, anything to take her mind off of the slowness of each minute that was now passing.
“Tenth.” the woman said, turning her attention back toward the gate for a moment as an airline employee exited the terminal.
“Tenth?” Sara stood, shocked. Finally finding her voice after feeling a bit small for her own feelings of anxiousness, she said, “Does it ever get easier?”
The woman thought for a moment, then turned back toward Sara and said, “Never.” Placing her hand on her shoulder again she finished, “But, each homecoming gets sweeter.” She smiled that comforting smile once more.
They both looked toward the terminal as a door made a loud bang and the booming echo of a man’s voice filled the space. “For’ard, march!” Sara thought for sure the other women with her would start cheering, would start hooting and hollering, but none of them did. They stood quietly as the company of men, dressed in their ACU’s, walked into view lined up in 4 rows, filling the terminal with the noise of their steps in rhythm.
Sara finally saw her husband come into view and her eyes got misty. “Finally home.” she thought, her heart lifting and the feeling of stress fading away. “Finally home.” She blinked back tears as they got closer.
“Company, halt.” The voice boomed out again, and with two steps, the entirety of the moving mass stopped, together. The precision of the final step took Sara’s breath away. The company stood still for several more seconds and Sara began to shake wanting this waiting to be over, when lastly, the voice boomed out his final command, “Fall out.”
Almost like watching a deluge, the women and men moved toward each other, each finding their loved one. Sara tried to maintain eyesight of her husband, losing him in the bustle of reunited families. She looked for several more seconds, moving to where she saw him last, trying to spot her boy in green, but he blended in with every other uniform.
Finally, a hand reached out to her, touching her on the shoulder. Sara slowly turned around, finally seeing him reaching for her. Tears broke through and she collapsed into his arms as he said to her, “Ma’am, reporting home, alive, as ordered.”