As the media set up for the homecoming, I fixed my son’s collar, checked my hair, and double-checked to make sure our sign was facing the right way. I took a quick look around and noticed that all the wives were doing the same thing. We all looked the same. My special outfit was not so special and his favorite perfume would never be smelt due to the menagerie of scents coming from the bleachers.

I heard a loud bang and the back doors of the building opened and soldiers marched in a methodically formed up behind the commander. It was like a tsunami when he dismissed them. Everyone from the bleachers ran toward them. Once I found my husband, I gave him a big kiss and immediately handed him our son. I guess I was subconsciously trying to recreate something out of one of the countless YouTube videos I’d watched. When I stepped back to take a picture of him with our 19 month old, he looked perplexed.

I immediately smiled and nervously said, “Hasn’t he grown?”

There was dead silence amongst all the chaos.

My husband finally said, “Here, you take him,” and turned around to talk to a friend. I stood there clutching our son as my husband turned his back on us, telling his buddy he’d see him at the party tonight. I stood there waiting to be told what to do next. Eventually my husband told me he was ready to go and he started walking to the door. He did not hold my hand nor did he walk with us. My son and I walked behind him as we sifted through the crowds trying to make our way to the door.

It was a one-mile drive to our house but it was the longest drive of my entire life. The car was dead silent. Even my son was not uttering a word.

As we pulled into our base housing, my husband noticed the huge banner in the front yard. There was a photo of him and it said, “Welcome home, baby, we have missed you so much.” Before I could even put the car in park, he jumped out and walked around the back of our townhouse.

My son and I got out of the car and headed for the front door. As I was unlocking the door, my husband ran up the steps and said, “Area secure.”

I said, “What?”

He said, “I searched the perimeter and it’s safe to enter now.”

I said, “Baby, I know we are safe. We’re home.”

He just looked at me. I nonchalantly said, “Billy, we are home. It’s really safe here. We live on base.”

He stopped me mid-sentence and said, “Wait. What? Where are we?”

I said, “Home… the historical district.” Making reference to the longstanding base joke that the run-down enlisted housing was actually an historical district.

He just stared at me. As I started to get my son in the front door, my husband said, “Lauren, I don’t remember.”

From that moment on, I knew my life had changed forever.

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