As the bus was pulling up you could hear the ‘DADDY’ screams from her little mouth. She was jumping up and down, pointing, ‘Daddy get off the bus!’

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“They say a girl’s first love is her daddy; and I couldn’t think of a more accurate phrase. In fact, when you have two little girls, that phrase is even more so the truth, especially for my husband. From the moment my husband knew I was expecting he always envisioned a little boy that would follow him into the woods and love to hunt in the fall and fish in the summertime. But God had other plans. We had a little girl.

Aerial view of mother laying in hospital with newborn sleeping on her chest
Courtesy of Amanda Taylor

Our first little girl arrived in November of 2015 during my husband’s first deployment. He was devastated that he had to miss her birth, but it made our first deployment homecoming that much more exciting and special. She was just shy of her 6-month birthday when he came home.

Soldier hugs wife and baby daughter as he leaves for deployment
Clayton & Rose Photography
Soldier father holds baby daughter before he leaves for deployment
Clayton & Rose Photography

Fast forward 3 months and bam! I was pregnant with post deployment baby #2, who also was a bundle of all things pink! Baby #2 was due to arrive in May of 2017. This time he was here for the birth, and for all the firsts he had missed with our first.

Soldier husband smiles holding his second child not long after her birth
Courtesy of Amanda Taylor

He was set to deploy yet again a few months after her birth, and this time I would be left behind with not one, but two little girls. Nervous doesn’t even begin to describe the feeling of being left with two small children for a 6-month-long deployment by yourself.

Mother lays in hospital bed smiling with newborn daughter on her chest beside her husband
Courtesy of Amanda Taylor

Even though these two children are yours, you begin to have doubts about things like if they will be mad at Daddy for leaving, or if they will remember him when he gets back. When you have two babies I’ve learned that having a routine is key and without one you will quickly become frustrated and feel like you’re going to lose your mind at any second.

February 2018 approached, and off he was, leaving in that white bus — setting off on his second deployment. I remember coming back to our house and it just felt so empty. If you’ve ever been through a deployment you’ll know what I mean when I say you can have all the things in your house that you’ve ever dreamed of, and have it still be empty without your husband there.

Soldier husband holds both daughter beside his wife before he leave for deployment
Courtesy of Amanda Taylor
Little girl who has special relationship with soldier father walks with him hand in hand down sidewalk
Courtesy of Amanda Taylor

My oldest had just turned 2 and was only okay for a few hours before she started asking for daddy. The day after he left she came down with a stomach bug and it was so hard for her to not have her daddy there to comfort her, and I felt absolutely helpless. There’s no worse feeling than not being able to fill that void in your child’s life when they want someone so badly to comfort them and they can’t be there.

The days and weeks went by must faster than I had expected it to. Once we got back into the swing of things and didn’t dwell so much on the fact that daddy had left, but instead counted down the days until he came back, that made things more bearable. Homecoming was nearing and suddenly I found myself frantically running around like a chicken with my head cut off trying to make sure everything was perfect (even though, let’s face it, he wouldn’t care about the house or anything else as long as he was home). I had set the girls’ outfits all out about 3 weeks in advance and my oldest BEGGED me each day of those three weeks to wear her ‘dress for daddy.’ She would get SO disappointed when I said we had to wait until it was the right time. I had also found them matching bows and I prayed they would keep them in their hair. We practiced wearing and keeping bows in their hair for weeks leading up to homecoming.

Two little girls sit in grass wearing red white and blue awaiting their soldier father's return
Maddie Shortt Photography

The day he was supposed to come home finally arrived, and I don’t think I slept but two hours the night before. I was running on fumes but too excited to care. My 2-year-old knew it was the day we were picking up daddy and all she would talk about was her dress and how excited she was to wear it. She carried it around all morning before we were on our way to pick up daddy.

We arrived at the barracks 2.5 hours earlier than they were set to arrive. I had been talking to my husband the majority of that morning when he finally had service and you could definitely tell (even through text messages) how excited he was to get to hold his baby girls again. I received a text about 12:00 p.m. that they were on their way. That made it seem so much more real. H was really coming home. That next hour went by sooo slowly. But I finally got the ‘we are almost there’ text. I went from nervous to jittery, my legs felt like Jell-O and I thought for sure I was going to pass out.

As the bus was pulling up you could hear the ‘DADDY’ screams from her little mouth as she was jumping up and down, pointing and chanting, ‘daddy get off the bus!’ As I was holding one baby in my arms and holding the others’ hand, anxiously waiting to see that smiling face get off that bus, she suddenly lets go of my hand and starts running. I don’t think I’ve ever witnessed a smile from my husband like I did that day when he finally got his little girls in his arms again after 175 days away.

Soldier father bends town to hug his oldest daughter while his wife stands in front of him holding younger daughter
Maddie Shortt Photography
Little girl has big smile on her face as she hugs her soldier father who just returned home
Maddie Shortt Photography

Just like that it was over. He was home and every problem, every worry, every nervous bone in my body instantly melted away. My oldest was like cling wrap once she got ahold on him, and with our youngest, it was like he hadn’t ever left. They picked up exactly where they left off and it was the most heartwarming thing I’ve ever witnessed. The two girls haven’t gotten over the fact that he’s back and its been more than 10 days now. Deployments end; Love doesn’t.”

Little girls smile in arms of soldier father who just returned home
Maddie Shortt Photography
Soldier father who just returned home holds two daughter and wife wraps her arms around them all
Maddie Shortt Photography

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Amanda Taylor, 24, of North Carolina. Do you have an emotional homecoming story to share? We’d love to hear from you. Submit your story here, and subscribe to our best stories in our free newsletter here.

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