Welcoming her son home from war was reason enough for Ann Miller to celebrate. But when he did, she found many more reasons.
My face was very red that July day, as if I had been puffing up a hill, which is exactly the effort it took to keep from falling apart. This was the day my son came home from war.
We had been tracking him for days; text messages traveling like little miracles from Logar Province to my cubicle in Fairfield. Over the days they came from locations that were increasingly safe: Bagram, Romania, Frankfurt. I was so afraid that something would go wrong when we had come so far.
Now we were walking toward the gym on base for the homecoming ceremony. The scene was jubilant and it was heartbreaking. And it was no longer about me and my son.
Children were spilling out of minivans with American flags and signs that said “Welcome Home Daddy!” A little girl toddled before me in a dress floating in red, white and blue. It felt like a high school pep rally, no more no less. Because unlike the woman with the red face, these kids had done this before.
My thoughts returned to the day my son deployed. Pulling up to the drop off point we parked behind a station wagon. It belonged to his staff sergeant, a sunny young man with many deployments under his belt who would keep my boy, the green lieutenant, safe. In the back of the station wagon was a quilt and the sergeant’s son. His eyes were sad but his mouth was stoic. The quilt was soft, pastel, and handmade, and completely at odds with the moment at hand.
As we put the Forever War behind us, there’s an image I can’t erase. That day in the gym, 400 women and men stood in formation, many with children, soft quilts in their cars and “Welcome Home” signs on their minivans. Each one ready to give their life for me. For us. It kind of takes your breath away, and your face red too.
With a Perspective, I’m Ann Miller.
Ann Miller is a communications professional living in the Napa Valley.