Army Mom: Expecting the Unexpected from a Deployed Son

The Christmas tree, yet no celebration due to a change in orders.

My son’s platoon arrived back at Fort Carson on December 21st.  Alison had their new apartment all set up and decorated for Christmas—everything was perfect and the only thing missing was Josh.  Unfortunately, my son did not come home with his platoon.  Josh’s orders had changed and he would return at a later date.

All the planning and preparation for a wonderful Christmas with Josh came to a screeching halt.  Alison flew back to Montana to spend the holidays with her family.  The beautifully decorated Christmas tree stood in the cold apartment with no Christmas celebration in sight.

One thing I have learned as an Army mom is to expect the unexpected, but when it happens it still hits hard and sends my emotions on a roller coaster ride.  It was heart-wrenching to think about the tree that went up, with such anticipation of the wonderful Christmas to come, but would have to be taken down without any Christmas celebration.

Tracie receives her unexpected surprise - her son Josh returned from Afghanistan.

The worst for me was the irony that I, through Military Families Ministry, launched a project that sent almost 1800 stockings to deployed troops for Christmas, yet my own son would spend Christmas in Afghanistan with no stocking, not one gift or package from home.  I was angry at the Army and heart-broken for my son.

Last week, Alison called to tell me that Josh had been released and should be arriving within the week.    On Wednesday, she sent me a text to say she was coming up that evening and would stay with us until he got home. When the door opened and I turned to say hello, it was not Alison that I saw—it was Josh.  I sat, stunned for what seemed a long time, before I stood to greet and hug my son.  The hug was precious and full of relief; different from the hug that sent him off to Afghanistan last June.

Tracie in the arms of her son - getting her return home hug.

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An Army Mom’s Deployment Day: June 11, 2011

The line-up of duffle bags as soldiers ready for deployment from Ft. Carson.

Saturday was deployment day for many Army families from Fort Carson.  The site of the duffel bags lined up on the side of the parking lot was unsettling; I knew each one represented a family that was about to say good-bye.  I didn’t count the bags, but estimated that close to 300 soldiers left for a year-long deployment in Afghanistan–my son was one of them.  Although this is Josh’s third deployment, it was the first time that I was with him on the day of his departure.

We started at the company command location on post and while the soldiers stood in line to draw their weapons, which they carry with them the entire trip, the families waited outside.

Families and thier loved ones spend precious minutes together prior to the call for formation and a year-long deployment in Afghanistan.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting most of the men in my son’s squad and some of their wives.  Several of these couples are experiencing deployment for the first time.

Tracie Ciambotti takes a walk with her son, Josh, before his third deployment since joining the Army.

Next, we went to the gymnasium parking lot where families huddled close together, taking every opportunity afforded to them to get one more kiss or another hug.  Every direction I looked, I saw a family savoring every minute they had left together.  One soldier knelt down as his young daughter inspected his weapon; another held a newborn baby while his wife and two daughters clung to him; many soldiers posed with their families for that last photo.

A call to formation was ordered and the troops immediately responded, each one taking his place in the line-up as role-call began.    As each name was shouted out that soldier proceeded to the gym entrance, made sure his back pack fit into the required box for the carry-ons, and then disappeared into the gymnasium.

The call for formation.

Soon they emerged from the other end of the building and rejoined their families.  Josh’s squad gathered in one area as we waited for the moment we all dreaded–the final role-call.

That call came and each soldier reached for the final hugs and kisses, grabbed his weapon and back pack, and headed for the building as his name was called.  My son said, “Okay mama, I gotta go” as he reached down for our final hug.  I said, “Take care, I love you and will be praying for you every day”.  He replied, “I know Mom, love you too”.  After Josh and Alison shared their final embrace, he headed into the building.

Alison’s Facebook post Saturday night said, “There are no words to describe the pain of watching him walk into that gym. May our countdown start now!”

Tracie’s son Josh hugs his wife Alison.

Tracie Ciambotti is the Co-founder of Military Families Ministry (MFM) and mother of an Army sergeant. Her previous blog contributions:

Deployment Week: A Mom’s Realities

Deployment Week: Packing, Pictures and Prayers

A Day to Honor Mothers: They Serve in Many Ways

How Do You Define True Patriotism?

When War Gets Personal

An Army Mom Connects Military Families and Churches

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