A military homecoming is an explosion of joy. Whether your meet your loved one on base or off, there is a world of ways to express your feelings: signs, gifts, a blowout meal at a favorite restaurant. While it's natural to want to make up for lost time all at once, the Department of Defense advises families to let their returning military personnel set their own schedule and pace for the first few weeks.
Banners and Signs
When your loved one is returning home after a long absence, it's natural to share the good news with the neighborhood. Decorate your home or yard with patriotic bunting, yellow ribbons or flags. If you'll be meeting your loved one at the base, make a handwritten banner of welcome with fat, bright letters all the way to the borders of the sign. Make it easy to identify from a distance by including poster-sized photos, favorite family sayings or some other clue your loved one will know.
Food and Drink
Your soldier has no doubt been dreaming of the neighborhood barbecue joint for months, if not years. Take him to his favorite restaurant for a blowout welcome-home dinner with all the trimmings, capped off with a decadent dessert. However, be careful with alcohol, advises the Department of Defense. Your soldier's alcohol intake has been restricted, and he will therefore be more sensitive to its effects for awhile.
A party might or might not be a good idea, at least at first. A Marine who just back from a long deployment will be tired from the long trip at first and may need some time to readjust to life at home. Ask your Marine what her preferences are; let her set the agenda for the first few weeks. If she wants a reunion party with family and friends, let her choose the time. Try to avoid springing a big party on your loved one before she's had a chance to get her bearings. When you do choose to throw a party, have it somewhere restful: in a houseboat on the lake, at a park or at a golf course clubhouse.
Give your loved one gifts that will help him relax and readjust to life at home. Give him a gift certificate to a spa for a much-deserved massage, tickets to a concert or a deep-sea fishing expedition. Rent box seats at the stadium and take him to see his favorite team play. Give him a coupon book filled with "day off from housework," "smooches" or "I'll feed the baby tonight" passes.