The headline on page one read “The green, green grass of home.” A color photo featured a beaming National Guard lieutenant in sunglasses and army fatigues, reclining on a patch of grass, smiling up at the sky. The photo was taken on the first stop on the journey home after a 17-month deployment in
It had been an excruciating few months since the family learned that Nicole’s March homecoming would be pushed back. Joe followed the news stories about the frequent and often random violence against
In Nicole’s correspondence and phone conversations to the family she tried to distract from the fact that she was in a war zone
Joe’s mom had become involved with a family readiness group, assembling care packages and networking with other guard parents, even as she tried to insulate herself from the war news. His dad was more stoic and rarely shared his opinions about the war. During the planning for the reunion, Nicole insisted they take only “one day to make a big deal,” then things would have to go back to normal. They would have to treat her like everyone else.
On the day of the reunion, two tourist-style buses shuttled the troops on a roughly three-and-a-half-hour
We've been traveling far
Without a home
But not without a star
Only want to be free
We huddle close
Hang on to a dream
The platoon spilled off the bus and lined up in front of their commanding officer, who saluted and bellowed “dismissed” to screams and laughter from the troops and the waiting crowd.