Story and Photo by Julie Gayler.
After 7 long months of the immense personal sacrifice of serving our country, even one minute more seems like an eternity. To be told so many times he was on his way, only to have a delay, is the height of emotions from 213 days of the heart wrenching unknown for the Bailey family.
“Would he be a changed person? Would our son and the bond they had be the same? Would he even come back alive?”
These are the questions nobody ever wants to even think about, but that is the reality of Tessa’s life as a military spouse. Some days, she could forget it and pretend he’s on a business trip. And other days, she felt it in the complete brokenness and silence of night.
And suddenly, just as quickly as he departed, the world stood still again to know that his plane was on the way there. To them. Finally, it would all be over!
There they stood, Tessa holding a welcome home sign, and smiling nervously making sure every hair was in place to look perfect for him. At her side, 3 year old Jarrod was wearing his own uniform, almost completely silent and intense. He held up little superhero binoculars and squinted at the sky, watching for daddy’s plane.
He barely flashed a smile at me, avoiding the camera.
Pointing to the character on his binoculars, I tried to make conversation. “Who is your favorite superhero? Spiderman, Superman?” Without a second of hesitation he stood a little taller and said, “No. My Daddy.”
It might as well have been 7 years by the time we watched the plane land across the airfield, and finally saw the van pull up with the Marines. Tessa and Jarrod literally flew across the last space that separated them, sign tossed to the side as well. And in that space of a heartbeat, their family was whole once more.
Standing together for a family photo, Jarrod nervously kept shifting his gaze away. “Go ahead, you can give Daddy a hug,” I backed away with tears in my own eyes. And it was one of those once in a lifetime moments where the love was so powerful, the people around all stopped to look and smile.
He had his hero.
Thank you, Sgt. Bailey, Tessa and Jarrod for your service for our country and its freedoms. It is because you are willing to put your life on the line, and sacrifice your family time, I have the luxury to capture many memories of togetherness for others with no fear. The reality of these moments is my freedom.
The transition home has it’s own challenges, because homecoming is just the beginning of the next page of the story. I pray this moment will be a powerful reminder of the strength of your love and commitment to each other every time you see it. Thank you.
Semper Fi and God bless America!