Crystal’s MEU Homecoming…

One of the best things about deployments besides the gifts your Marine gets you is their arrival!! Depending on the type of deployment, the location of their deployment and what base you are stationed at will determine the kind of Homecoming Reception your unit has.
I know that on MEU’s sometimes they let Marines get off the ship at a port close to your location and use their leave time early instead of waiting the extra week or more to make it back to land for the big homecoming. It was a great relief for some to see their heroes early and an exhilarating surprise for others to have their husbands standing outside their door! The Facebook posts from so many wives that weekend were so moving and I melted thinking of how some of these strong, hardened Marines thought of a secret plan to fly home before everyone else and catch their wives off guard with no makeup on, the house a mess, a full load of dishes in the sink and probably a pile of laundry! LOL! Hilarious but yet thoughtful and romantic at the same time!
Some families stay at home and let the Marines drive their own vehicle from their drop off location and choose to not wait for hours on base for their arrival. For our first deployment I wasn’t even in the state myself.  I was unaware of how incredibly amazing the homecomings can be. Not all homecomings have the rolled out carpets and velvet ropes. Not all homecomings the Marines march in together in formation. Not everyone’s experience is the same but at times it is a very surreal, somber, emotional, heartfelt, heartbreaking, and thrilling event which can be an exhausting for the reasons stated above.
One of my particular homecoming though, I was pumped up.  I helped the FRO and families cope & survive during this deployment and I felt like my heart was in the production of helping set up, prepare and assist family members during the waiting game before the busses arrived with the men. Now on the family readiness side we thought we were pretty prepared. We had plenty of coffee makers, ice, balloons, snacks, water, kids’ patriotic paintings, mini flags to line the streets and canopies for families to sit under. This is where the Semper Gumby comes in at. Almost every FRO will have Homecoming Arrival time frames for the family members to go by. As typical Homecomings can be the times we were told were incorrect and the time frames were early by about 5-6 hours. Thankfully, all of the parents and wives I talked to were very patient, understanding and cooperative during this time especially knowing their Marines are so close to being in their arms.
When the busses started to arrive and head towards the armory it was a sight for sore eyes. Unfortunately but expectedly some of the attendees wandered off thinking they’d get to get their men early but all it did was to stall the transition and accountability process. We were about 300 yards away from the armory on a different street.  We were near a BEQ (Bachelor Enlisted Quarters or barracks rooms) and there were Marines walking around in their cami’s all day so we didn’t really even know when or how orderly our Marines would be released from the armory to begin walking our way.
Would they all be marching into the Homecoming location? Marines were pilling about in two and four at a time people were on pins and needles; but was it our Marines? We all stood on our tip toes trying to catch a glimpse of a familiar face since all of these Marines seem to look alike!!
I’ve heard so many stories of ladies who grabbed and hugged the wrong Marine! LOL! Hilarious but I didn’t want it to be me!
Slowly but surely indivdual hugs, tears, screams and jumping commenced; they were on their way! After a long tiring day we eventually all found our Marines and were able to hug for the first time in nearly 7 months! They had all had long and stressful days so all they wanted was to eat some Carl’s Jr. or McDonalds, get a shower and head home.
The best thing about this deployment was it was a MEU & ladies that is where our hard work is repaid in GIFTS!!!! These men have time to shop at ports and bring back the BEST loot! I swear if you need silk sheets, M.A.C. Makeup, jewelry or jewelry boxes, pearls, ect they will be able to find it for pennies on the dollar!
Another deployment down and many more to go in these years to come! My husband had information for me in the next few hours that would change my world forever. Little did he know that I was already aware of the situation but hadn’t come to grips with it just yet…

Crystal’s First ‘official’ Deployment…Anchor’s Away

The summer of 2009 was over and the MEU (ship) deployment was coming fast and I had to do something!  I eventually got the opportunity to volunteer more and more for the Family Readiness Officer of Anthony’s unit. Keeping busy during the deployment was my coping method. Organizing things for and working with others helped me not focus every little stressor during Anthony’s absence that were not within my reach and that I couldn’t control.
Anthony’s unit was going to be part of a Battalion Landing Team or BLT. Not quite like a BLT sandwich but it is exactly as it sounds a big mess of all MOS’s (jobs) put together on several ships to tour the seas for different reasons.
There are several ships in a BLT/MEU situation & some had just sailed and one had to stay back for repairs.  We had been all ready for him to leave.  During departure & arrival times rumors fly & some of them were that they would be gone 12 months and not 6 and another was that the broken ship would not go at all.
I tried to avoid that nonsense & kept a level head & focused on simple things.  Thankfully he was on the broken ship so got additional time together!  We didn’t really know when he was going to have to go but we knew it was coming up fast.
Early one morning Anthony called me after being at work for an hour and said “we’re leaving”. I didn’t really know what to think and how serious to take him since that can mean anything from don’t plan for the BBQ this weekend to don’t make the lasagna tonight.  This time we a couple hours notice of this deployments departure. Right after he called the plan was for him to head home, pick up his gear and us to head back to his work and wait around while he prepared for the bus ride to the ship.
So this was it.  It was our big day and the big emotional roller coaster moment. This was my first time experience since I’d never been to a send off, deployment day, or anything. When I lived in Texas & he had deployed before we typically said goodbye at the airport and I’d go back to my normal or should I say (maybe not so normal) Geo-Bachelor life.  I didn’t know what to expect, how to feel, how not to feel, how to react, how NOT to react, ect. I knew it was going to be sad because of his absence and missing the upcoming holidays. I also knew that I was a semi-strong and independent person and he was just going on a ship for 6 months or so and that I shouldn’t be too overwhelmed or overemotional. I knew we’d have email, Skype, phone calls and mail so this should be a cake walk. Right?!
I may have had a false sense of self because I knew I’d have Stacie, Maggie & all the volunteer work to fall back on.  Thank goodness Maggie went through all of this with me and we both had each other to talk to, vent to, drink wine with and complain about the house falling apart because the men left. I believe the kids were able to cope better since Maggie’s kids and so many other military families kids were going through the same feelings at the same time all in our little military community bubble.
The unit held a send off at the UMA lot (basically a huge parking lot) filled with 7 tons, busses, Marines, family members, kids, dogs and friends not ready to say their goodbyes just yet. We waited for hours and hours while gear was loaded, signs were painted and coffee was brewed. People had started leaving, the tears were falling, and the last kisses for months had begun. I had helped set up, clean up as the evening wore on, painted signs and spoken to all my company wives I knew and tried to assure them they’d be getting the latest information from our FRO and command ASAP.
Anthony pulled me aside and told me that he felt it was time for me and the girls to go home. It was getting late, they were about to leave anyway and there was nothing more for me to do there. All of a sudden that was when the unexpected waterworks hit me.  I didn’t know why I was crying.  Didn’t I just say I was strong?  Damnit.  It really hurt to know that he wouldn’t be coming home with us, eating dinner with us, going to the movies with us and Thanksgiving or Christmas dinners. I was sad, hurt, mad at the Marine Corps, and kind of scared. Scared for what? I thought maybe the bus wouldn’t make it, that he’d get hurt on the ship, that he’d not get along with his co-workers aboard the ship, that he’d get hurt on missions when he got overseas, he’d get sick again with pneumonia, swine flu again or bronchitis again. There were so many insecurities I had about the whole situation.

11th MEU

Now I know all of those last minute and unexpected emotions are normal. We’d prepared diligently for the deployment by preparing our families, organizing Wills, Powers of Attorney, passwords, ect.  Yet, I couldn’t control and secure was my husband’s safety and health. To make matters even more emotional the ship stayed docked overnight and I persuaded Maggie to come to the send off with me at a rally point for the unit.
With time though I eased up on my anxiousness thanks to Maggie, the FRO, my RBE (Remain Behind Element) co workers and friends because I think it would have turned into an obsession to know how he is, where he is, what he’s doing, what he’s not doing, ect.
All of these emotions were just the send off….oh goodness Help ME!