There is the waiting, the planning, the signmaking.

Finally the day comes.

Getting the kids dressed, packing the car with the balloons, banners and posterboards.

Then there is the waiting.

The traffic heading to the base. Checking in, getting to the assembly area. The fifteen times telling the kids, "No that man in the uniform isn't Daddy. I don't know if he knows where Daddy is. Daddy isn't here yet, he is on his way."

(We didn't use Mom here because, well, every kid knows exactly who Mom is and who isn't Mom. Except maybe in the department store when you're 5 and you're hugging mom's leg, she steps away, another leg swoops past and you subconsciously latch on ... a mom leg is a mom leg even if that leg isn't attached to our Mom.)

Then there is the waiting.

And waiting.

And wait, is that, nope. Just a bird.

And the waiting.

Then, is it, yes, that's Daddy's plane.

The reunion is something every military family member knows well and experiences differently. There is the spousal reunion, daddy-daughter, dad and son, mommy-daughter, mom and son.

There are tight hugs and firm kisses, lots of tears and snotty tissues shoved in mom's pockets.

The rundown of what firsts were missed for the youngest, who had the high score in what game or on what test, maybe a few of those "you need to have a talk with your son" conversations sprinkled in.

In the military, the call to go can come six months out or in an instant. Being prepared for that is a way of life for the servicemember, the spouse and the kids as well.

The sweetest moments, and sometimes the only assuredly safe ones, such as a return from a long deployment, are held onto tightly.

And it is a time when we who have served, or a community that strives daily to support those who serve, get a peek at what goes on and to look on appreciatively and with gratitude and from a distance, maybe with a nod and think, thank you -- Mom, Dad, son and daughter. Thank each of you for your service.