**I did not take any of these pictures. They were all taken by my friend, Jessica. They just have my copyright on them since photos now automatically get my copyright when I upload them to my blog. But again, I didn’t take any of them. Jessica deserves all the credit. THANK YOU Jess!!**
It was finally the day Mark would come home, and oddly enough, I felt completely calm. I wasn’t nervous at all, like I thought I would be, maybe partly because I didn’t really think he’d actually make it home. The odds of 12 jets getting off without a hitch is pretty much a small miracle. I didn’t actually believe he was coming home until I saw him waving to us from the jet.
It’s funny, when I’d look at other people’s homecoming pictures, often I would get teary eyed seeing them. I wasn’t sure how I’d react to Mark coming home, but I mainly just felt sort of numb. I was excited, but I was looking around at other wives who were about jumping out of their skin, and I wasn’t anything like that. Maybe that had something to do with me not doing any sort of jumping in my 32 week pregnant state, I’m not sure.
<On the bus out to the hangars.>
One of the many cool things about being married to a fighter pilot is that sometimes you get your own private homecoming since they fly in in their own jets. We were able to go to the hangar to wave to him as he was taxiing to his hangar and then greet him when he got out of the jet.
<Watching all the other jets land and wives and kids greeting their daddy’s and husband's.>
Mark was the last jet in the 12-ship to land. I was getting a little worried by this point because we’d seen all the other jets go by and we were still waiting for Mark. I was sure he was the only one that hadn’t made it back and I kept asking one of our friends where he was and which direction he’d be coming from and why it was taking so long.
But finally we saw his jet come around the corner. This is the only time I got a little bit choked up. I was so relieved that he was actually on the ground and that we were going to get to hug him soon.
It was surreal to see him in the jet and for him to wave back at us. I tried to imagine what he was feeling at this point, but I couldn’t even imagine being in his shoes. I think Abbie understood when I told her that was her daddy in the jet and she seemed to get more excited too. She was ready to run up to the jet even as it was running.
We walked over to where he was parking the jet and waited FOREVER for him to open the canopy and get out. It seemed like we waited hours for him to turn off the jet, and I wasn’t sure if it was just because we were waiting for Mark or if it actually was taking 10 times longer than it did for the other guys to open their canopies after they’d landed. Turns out something was wrong with jet so the ground crew was making him do a bunch of checks on the jet before they let him turn it off. Even the commander of the other F-16 squadron on base, who was nearby, was giving Mark the signal to just shut the jet off since it was taking a long time. He sat there for over 15 mins with the jet running waiting for maintenance to do their thing.
FINALLY he turned the jet off and opened the canopy. Mark brought Abbie an Olivia doll back from Afghanistan. Mark was so excited to give Abbie the doll and kept it with him during the flight home.
Usually wives climb up the ladder to welcome their husband’s home, but I didn’t want to leave Abbie down on the ground by herself, and I’m not the most graceful creature on earth when I’m pregnant. With my luck I would have fallen off the thing and made a big scene. So I stayed on the ground, although I kind of wished I’d gone up to greet him.
I kind of figured that Abbie wouldn’t be too shy around Mark since she’s not shy about much these days, but part of me was a little worried that she might hesitate a little bit. But she didn’t at all. She was more than ready to go give him a big hug. This is what I’d been waiting for for months and Mark too, and it was really sweet to witness it.
She wasn’t the least bit nervous about giving him a big hug, even though he was in all his flying gear. And she was pretty darn excited about the Olivia doll too.
Finally it was my turn to give him a hug. I was hoping he wouldn’t have his mustache when he got home, but he still had it. Oh well. Baby boy got in the way of it being a really good hug, but what can you do? I basically just wanted to stand there and stare at him. I couldn’t believe that he was really home.
Abbie was completely in awe of Mark. She ran around looking up at him, trying to get his attention for the first 3 days he was home. She was perfectly happy when he was paying full attention to her.
And he was (and is) completely in awe of her too. (The stache came off shortly after he got home, by his own doing. He said he was sick of it.)
It’s still hard to believe that he’s home. His homecoming day still seems surreal to me, but I am SO thankful that he’s home safe and sound and we’re all together again.