This never gets old. The homecoming. Been there, done that. And it is so sweet. After a long or short deployment with separation from your loved ones, coming home has a special meaning. Whether you are on a routine training mission across the country, or on a combat mission on a remote and lonely battlefield someplace that was unknown to you until you stepped off the plane , or on a ship at sea on the far side of the world, coming home is something every service member has on his or her mind from the moment they get on the plane or cast off the lines. And the families at home are no different. They try to go about their daily lives doing all the routine things that consume their time, but the reality of their loved one being far away for some period of time is always there. And it doesn't matter what the mission is. If you are separated by deployment, the danger is always there. No matter if you're driving a truck on a military reservation somewhere in the U.S., humping a pack through dangerous lands, manning a MASH unit behind the lines, doing a routine job on an American warship, flying a routine mission of humanitarian assistance, or so many other jobs, the danger is always there. You could make a misstep and your time could be up in a heartbeat. That's why homecoming is so sweet. You're back in the fold with your loved ones. You can be a part of their lives again. And they can be a part of yours. It's the way we were meant to live. Together.
But this weekend we don't celebrate homecoming. For many, many families they won't ever experience that joyous homecoming. Too many will weep this weekend. Too many will yearn for their loved ones who will never return. So what can we, the living, do? We can honor them. We can think of them. We can pause and remember. Oh, we all know that it is also the first weekend of summer. There will be barbecues, parties, and fun family times. It will be a time to relax and get ready for summer. So have a great time and enjoy whatever endeavor that will come your way. But for a moment, just for a moment, remember those who have fallen to ensure our freedoms and those left behind mourning their loved ones who gave the "last full measure of devotion". And it doesn't matter what they were doing when they lost their lives. What matters is their service. We live in a secure nation. An island nation. We have generally not experienced the horror of attack or the threat of invasion on the scale of other countries around the world. We've had our Pearl Harbor and our 911. And those we're horrific. But think of the war-torn countries around the world. It's not that so many think it can't happen here....it's that so many don't even think about it. But there are those that have. And those that do. Those who recognize service above self. Those who are willing to give, to go in harm's way, to risk all. So take a moment on Monday. A quiet moment. Look around you. Hug your family. And give thanks.