+Wednesday, March 29, 2006+
Having Matt back home is incredible. Perhaps, oddly enough, the thing that's taken the most getting used to is that it feels like he's never left - I keep thinking back over the last year, wondering if it really happened. Germany came up in discussion a few days ago, and I found myself commenting that we'll have to get out there some day since neither of us have ever been. The response I got was a side-long glance and, "Um...Erika..." It was as if it had completely slipped my mind that Matt had been gone for over a year, that he had trekked through Germany a couple times to and from Afghanistan. I suspected that we would pick up right where we left off, but I never imagined it would seem like the last year never even happened. It's just a blur and all that matters is that Matt is home now, safe and sound.

I was a mess on the 18th when we went to pick up Matt. Matt's family and friends (long story there on the inclusion of the family friends, but no sense in beating a dead horse) and my parents arrived at our house at around 9 in the morning to help me hang up Matt's welcome home banner and then I decided I'd rather wait at the base than at home. We'd been told we didn't have to arrive at the base till 11 and that the ceremony would begin at 11:30, but @#%! that. We arrived at the base at 9:30. We were the 4th car in the parking lot, and as soon as we pulled into the parking lot, Matt called and said they'd just landed at the Reno-Tahoe airport and were taxing around the terminal. I got really excited, thinking it was so great I got there early since the unit landed early, but it must've slipped my mind that rarely does anything in the army work out in my favor. Sure, the guys had landed early, but as it turns out, they were without buses to take them to the base until about 11.

Meanwhile, back at the base, Matt's mom was pacing around impatiently and eavesdropping on anyone in a uniform with a walkie-talkie, and I was strangling my cell phone, fighting back vomit, and needing to pee but not wanting to leave out of fear of possibly missing the arrival of the unit. I must've accidently thrown or dropped my cell phone at least 10 times waiting for any news on the unit getting to the base. If you've ever wondered what it feels like to be on the brink of insanity, send someone you love away for a really long amount of time and then arrive at the airport 2 hours early to wait for them.

Finally the unit arrived and we knew this only because security around the doors suddenly beefed up and no family members were allowed outside the building. We had arrived early and gotten excellent seats right up front, I'd even mapped out a running path which had just been blocked by two wheelchairs, and as anticipation started to build up thicker and thicker, I started debating how rude it would be to ask the two people in the wheelchairs if they would move seeing as they were blocking an aisle. As it turns out, it didn't matter; the unit got into formation on the other side of one of the massive garage doors of the hangar we were in, it took what seemed like an eternity for the enormous door to slide open (I remember clinching Matt's mom's arm and saying about a billion times that the door could not possible open any slower), and I must've briefly received the ability to fly because before I knew it I was over the chairs in front of me, had spotted Matt, and had taken off running.

I got the first hug. In fact, I probably pissed everyone else off quite a bit because everyone else's first hug with Matt was around me. I just held on, breathing him in, feeling the solidity of his presence. Here he is, in front of me, his arms around me, not on the other side of the world. This particular picture I'm including in the post is my favorite, but you can view all the rest here. Make sure you read the captions for a "storybook" effect. He's home!! Now I can officially say WE DID IT!

wishing matt was here @ 11:07 AM+

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