“Honey, I am home.”
These were the words Lt. Gen. Paul Funk II said to his wife during his speech as the III Corps Phantom Warriors returned home after a thirteen-month long deployment on Friday. The uncasing of the colors took place that afternoon.
As a military spouse, they are the four greatest words you can hear following a deployment.
I couldn’t be at the uncasing ceremony due to my work schedule, but I was very grateful to be able to watch — thanks to technology — as these members of Army family returned home to their loved ones and the Great Place. It is always special to see familiar faces welcoming home their loved ones.
I touch on uncasing and homecoming ceremonies often because it is my most favorite thing in the Army. It doesn’t matter if you have experienced one deployment or six. It doesn’t matter if you are yet to experience a deployment. You live this Army life with a sense of strength, pride, compassion and love.
There is nothing like arriving at the field while the DJ is playing the celebratory music that is being pumped through the speakers. The energy of hope, love and excitement can’t help but fill your heart. The buses arrive. America’s heroes exit the buses. The buses drive on with the cheers of “move that bus” from the crowd of family, friends and Good Neighbors. The march begins to the parade field.
At this point, time seems to stop; At least for me.
The colors are uncased. The anthem plays while the crowd stands with a salute or a hand over the heart. Some remarks follow, the colors are retired and families are reunited.
At Friday’s ceremony, when Funk made his way to the podium, he spoke about the century of service our Phantom Warriors have been providing. These soldiers served for more than a year in Iraq, Kuwait and Syria. They served with pride and sacrifice as “America’s Hammer was called to destroy the enemy.” Funk spoke about answering the call while donning the cloth of this great nation.
What touched me the most about his remarks was his recognition of the famiies of the service members “who bear the heaviest burden and make the greatest sacrifice.”
Funk said, “Tomorrow we will face new challenges, but today we celebrate being back home at the Great Place.”
For me, listening to the words of the III Corps commander as they uncased the colors is something I appreciate and hold close to my heart.
Undoubtedly, there are more deployments for our Army families but the steadfast work our military service members do and the sacrifice our Army families make are what makes this life so special.
It’s what makes this life like no other.
Currently, we have service members deployed all over the world.
From Afghanistan to Korea, Germany to Iraq and more, there will always be families waiting on uncasing and homecoming ceremonies. There will always be families holding down the fort at home so their service members can do what they were called to do — serve this great nation.
As military families, we stand together to support each other. We care for ourselves and we care for each other. We hold space when our Army families call.
Last Friday, I think the greatest word all those families heard from Funk was “dismissed” as they ran to the arms and embraces of their loved ones with tears of joy and hugs of happiness.
We are forever grateful. We are forever proud. We are all Phantom Strong.
Reena O’Brien is a military spouse and Herald Correspondent. She lives at Fort Hood.