Military Dad Homecoming

Jun 22, 2024

Please enjoy this guest post from Cody Dodd

Arguably, the most exciting time for a military family is homecoming, which is unlike the high school dance. This is when the military family experiences a reunion after months apart due to deployment.

Homecoming stories are a lot of fun. Ranging from heartwarming to downright hilarious. National Guardsman Jeff Grimes illustrates both sides of the coin. After a 9 month deployment to Kuwait, he sought to surprise his family with his return. He was met with a series of challenges. Including a downsized plane and a delay, a card decline preventing him from getting a rental car, his family being out of town when he arrived, and a new set of security cameras installed in his home.

Jeff continued to push forward. Finding one of the only spots in the house where the security cameras would not detect him, he camped out for several hours, waiting for his family’s return from visiting family out of town. Unable to watch TV or turn on the lights, he sat there in the dark for five hours, unwilling to give up the surprise homecoming.

Finally, his patience was rewarded. His wife, Holly, and his three children walked through the door. He leapt around the corner with the element of surprise, catching them off guard one by one as they walked into the house.

“I was really, really in shock, I guess would be the best way to explain it,” said Holly Grimes, 39. “I was completely in shock. I screamed, I ran, I cried.”

 The Sacrifice of Service 

 Sacrifices military dads make 

  • Time. Arguably the most important asset we have. Sure, absence can make the heart grow fonder. But you can’t get that time back.
  • Birthdays and special events. Wedding anniversaries, Christmas, Thanksgiving, birthdays, school plays, sports games. The birth of your child. Your daughter’s first steps. Surgeries.
  • Peace of mind. There is real angst for the family back home. They might wonder if dad is going to make it home. Dad might wonder if his family is safe. What if they get in a car crash and he isn’t there to know about it? What if an intruder breaks in and he isn’t there to protect them?

 Impact of deployment on family dynamics 

  • Military families may struggle with mental health problems. Ranging from depression to PTSD. Loneliness to anxiety, and everything in between.
  • Family duties. In your absence, your spouse will have to take on the role of both parents. This really takes a person out of their element and can lead to increased stress and strain.
  • Child behavior is affected, and it is more pronounced as the child grows older. Children with deployed parents are more likely to exhibit anxiety, fear, and aggression.
  • A survey showed 20 percent of military spouses reported increases in problem behavior exhibited by their children at home in response to parental deployment, and 21 percent reported increased levels of fear and anxiety with their children.
  • Another study showed that mental and behavioral health visits increased by 11 percent in children of deployed military members, behavioral disorders increased by 19 percent, and stress disorders increased by 18 percent. Rates especially increased in older children.

 The Joy of Reunion 

 Emotions experienced during military dad homecoming 

  • Joy, relief, disbelief, shock, happiness, anxiety, frustration. This experience can be an emotional rollercoaster. In my experience, the day of homecoming is all positive emotion with a bit of anxiety.
  • It’s the final stretch and the days leading up to homecoming that the more troubling emotions take hold of you. I remember emailing my wife back and forth talking about how we’ve only got a week left but it feels like an eternity. The butterflies in my stomach were real.

 Heartwarming reunion and reaction of family members 

Imagine you’ve been away from your family for five months. You and all of your shipmates are dressed in your nicest uniform. Your ship is making its way to the pier. You can see your family on the pier holding welcome signs. You can hear them wooing and calling your name.

You see your wife holding your daughter on the pier, both looking beautiful. You see your beloved sisters accompanied by your nieces and nephews. You watch the crane hook up the brow so that you can walk/run off of the ship onto the pier.

You pick up your flowers for your family from the quarterdeck, and they announce that “first kiss” may now depart the ship. You’re nervous because typically the Commanding Officer is first to get off of the ship. But he tells you to go ahead. You make a beeline for it.

You see news anchors and cameras at the bottom of the steps. You know you’re going to get interviewed, as the recipient of the first kiss honor. More importantly, you see your better half standing there with your baby girl in her arms. You make it down that last step and you deliver the first kiss to your wife. The crowd goes wild. And you’re home. You’ve made it. You’re home.


 Interview from military dad and family 

navy father

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Hundreds of sailors were welcomed with cheers, hugs, and signs during an homecoming celebration Saturday morning at Naval Station Mayport where crowds welcomed the first of two ships returning from overseas service.

“Coming back home to my family is the best part of everything,” Sailor Cody Dodd said.

After nearly five months apart, the Dodd family is finally whole again.

“I’ve been waiting for him for so long. We’ve missed Christmas, our anniversary and it just feels so good that he’s back here with us,” Caroline Dodd, a Navy Sailor said.

Cody Dodd along with over 300 Navy Sailors returned from deployment along the USS Farragut. During deployment, this ship was used to combat illicit drug trafficking and strengthening diplomatic relations in the South American/Caribbean region. Leaders say the USS Farragut seized of over 3,000 kilograms of cocaine, worth $220.7 million.

Source: firstcoastnews

 Challenges After Reunion 

 Challenges military families face readjusting after a reunion 

  • Getting used to sharing the space of your home again. Your spouse has been doing everything for your family solo in your absence. You will have to learn how to make room for each other again.
  • Finances. Expenses immediately go back up when the military dad returns home. It’s another mouth to feed, and more than likely the mouth with the biggest stomach. Hopefully you did well and saved up as much as possible while you were gone.
  • Readjusting to routine. For the past number of months, your schedule was more or less established for you. Now that you’re home, you have to face the challenge of finding your routine to best support your family and take care of yourself. This will take time.

 Importance of communication and support during this transition 

  • It is vital to be honest with your partner during this process, and to allow her the floor to be honest with you. Communication is a two way street.
  • Expectations breed resentment. Especially unspoken expectations.

 Tips for military families to cope with post-deployment challenges 

  • Focus on what has not changed, instead of all the things that have changed. Undoubtedly, lots of things have changed. Furniture has been moved around, your wife has a new haircut, your child is now talking nonstop. Maybe your family got a dog.
  • The things that could have changed are endless. Focus on the good. Like the love that you share with your wife. The health of your child. Practice gratitude for your blessings. What we focus on expands.
  • Marriage counseling may be appropriate to help you and your spouse navigate this reunion. What I did, is what I would recommend to any military returning home from deployment seeking to reconnect with their spouse and fortify their marriage. See below
  • Find a marriage counselor within the Tri Care Network online. Contact them and let them know your interest. Talk to your Medical supervisor and share the name of the clinic you’re seeking and your intentions. Provide them with any information they need. Talk to your counselor again to see what else is required of you, and voila, you now have a licensed professional to meet with for you and your spouse that is completely covered by your health insurance.

 Supporting Military Families 

 Organizations or programs that support military families during deployments and reunions 

  • Military OneSource is a round-the-clock resource that offers information and services for service members and families, including consultants available by phone or live chat. Military OneSource is part of the U.S. Department of Defense’s network of support for the military community.
  • The United Through Reading(UTR) program personally helped me during my military deployments by allowing me to participate in story time from afar.
  • The Fleet and Family Support Program(FFSP) offers services include counseling, financial education and assistance, deployment support, relocation assistance, employment assistance, family advocacy, and crisis intervention.

 How YOU can get involved or support military families 

  • Acknowledge the ones keeping the home fires burning. Not just the typical “oh I bet you miss your husband so much”. Chances are they are feeling overshadowed by the sacrifice that the person deployed is making. Give them credit for taking care of the children, running errands, cooking meals, doing chores. The ones at home are just as brave as the ones deployed
  • Offer to cook them a meal. Invite them to church. Hire a babysitter to watch their kids so that they can get a small dose of individuality back.
  • Be willing to ask how you can help if you are unsure. Each family has their own personal struggle.

 Final Thoughts 

 Emotional journey of military dads and their families during deployments and reunions 

The emotions accompanying a Military deployment can be turbulent. It’s much like going through the stages of grief. Here is an outline of what you can expect.

  1. Anticipation of departure
  2. Detachment and withdrawal
  3. Emotional disorganization
  4. Recovery and stabilization
  5. Anticipation of return
  6. Return and renegotiation
  7. Reintegration and stabilization

 Strength and resilience of military families 

Realize that this is just for a season. Take heart. Trust in God. If you can make it through this season as a couple, you can make it through anything. There is hardly anything more resilient than a military family.

 About the Author 

Cody Dodd is a father, husband, and follower of Christ. His blog, The DoddFather covers a wide range of dad content.

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