The day John arrived on the port in Honolulu was overcast, and the slight drizzle quickly turned into a full on downpour. But the spirit in the crowd of husbands, wives, mothers, daughters and sons all gathered to welcome their sailors home was not diminished by the soggy weather. I was there, dressed in a royal blue tutu and my hair in fluffy curls. Nervous, excited and ready to see my husband. The cheering of the families as the ship pulled into port was deafening, and it is rare that the emotions felt by so many individuals are exactly the same. I remember speaking to a few of the other spouses and we would pep talk each other to 'suck it up, buttercup' and 'don't let that mascara run now!' to keep us from giving into the wave of elated tears. Tears we'd shed over missing our spouse. Tears we'd shed over frustrations experienced that we couldn't share. And finally, the best tears, the ones we'd been waiting to have - the my-person-is-back-in-my-arms tears.
John didn't know I'd be on that pier. He had long resigned himself to seeing me a week later in Tampa. What he didn't know (and thank you so much to everyone that helped me plan this) was that when his Chief reached out to me in December to ask if I wanted to send him anything for Christmas, I asked if it would be feasible to meet him at the port in Honolulu. Luckily for me, his Chief is an amazing woman and advocate for work/life balance. She was on board and said "We are making this happen." And we did. John annoyingly needed details and information and we couldn't give it to him. He'd annoy his shipmates with calls and emails trying to arrange his return, not knowing that the details were already buttoned up neatly. At one point fake flight information was created to placate John. He had no idea, bless his heart.
So now I'm standing on the pier and John is not leaving the boat. The husbands, wives, mothers, daughters and sons have all retrieved their loved ones and are heading home. The pier is clearing. I pull someone aside who has a lot of medals on his uniform, assuming "he seems like he might be in charge.' I explain that I'm here to pick up Bulzone and he isn't expecting me, and ask that he order John onto the pier for some errand or another. I was pretty confident it would be another 45 minutes before John would saunter off that ship. My feet were in my prettiest pumps, completely soaked, and my curls were going flat with the rain; so I really was hoping he'd have John off that boat in the next 5 minutes.
Officer Official came through. I spotted John before he saw me. John walked right past me. I had to say "John!" for him to turn around. And the feeling we shared when he saw me will be something I'll never be able to forget. I appreciate him so much, being away from his family was not an easy task. But all that hardship and sacrifice was validated when I saw the gratitude in his eyes. I could see he realized I'd flown across the country and over the ocean to be there to greet him upon returning from his first deployment. I could see a new resolve and depth of character in him, my man has gotten his sealegs. John is a trusty Shellback of King Neptune's Court.
And now he's home, and the real fun begins. Next up, back to San Diego!