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Welcome Home, Soldier!

Growing up, my oldest son talked about joining the Army, but I figured it was just a little boy dreaming because he was fascinated with playing army as many boys are. I guided him toward attending college and a career that would not endanger his life. To his credit, Kaleb gave college a try by taking college courses his junior year of high school. However, there was no fulfillment for him, and when he began his senior year, Kaleb decided traditional college was not for him because the dream of joining the Army never went away.

Early during the fall semester, Kaleb met with an Army recruiter who bolstered his confidence that the Army was his future. The recruiter told him that the Army would be happy to have him, but Kaleb would need to lose about thirty pounds to pass the physical fitness exam. So, over the next several months, Kaleb slowly shed the extra weight, and his determination paid off. The summer after his high school graduation, Kaleb passed the physical fitness exam and was scheduled to leave for Fort Benning, Georgia in early August.

When Kaleb left for boot camp, I cried tears of joy and sadness. He was leaving to pursue his dreams, but my baby boy was leaving home. This would be the longest we had ever been apart. This would be the first time we were not together for his birthday or for Thanksgiving. This would be hard for me. I could no longer protect him from this crazy world nor be there when he struggled. Kaleb was on his own.

The weeks passed slowly with no word from Kaleb, and we were left to wonder how he was doing. Finally, Kaleb was able to make a short phone call home, so we were able to hear his voice and know he was okay. We lived for those future, all too short conversations as well as his letters home. They gave us a glimpse into Kaleb’s new life which he was thriving in and had fully embraced. However, until I could see him with my own eyes, I still worried as moms do.

Thankfully, the Army did not make me wait much longer. Kaleb was scheduled to come home for two weeks over Christmas and the New Year. My baby boy was coming home!

December 18th finally arrived, and I anxiously awaited his arrival. My nieces hung the Welcome Home banner outside and decorated the dining room with banners, balloon, and lanterns. We were ready. Around 5:30pm, the car pulled into the drive. My cameras were turned on so that I could see his arrival from my bed. Too slowly, a stranger emerged from the car. I did not recognize the slim young man with the shaved head wearing his Army clothes. However, when he walked into my room with a big grin saying, “Hey, Mom,” I knew my Kaleb was home. My smile quickly turned to tears of joy as he bent down to hug me. My son had left home in August as a young boy but returned home a soldier.

These two weeks are going by too quickly. All too soon, I will be saying good-bye. Tears will flow freely once again, and my mom’s worrying will return. However, I am filled with pride over the man he has become and over him serving his country. Each day, I will look forward to a letter, a phone call, and the time we can once again say, “Welcome Home, Soldier.”

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