Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Welcome Home, Brother.

Tap. Tap. Tap.  Squeeeeeak!  Um... Hello???  Is this thing still on???

I never meant to neglect this blog for so long, but Summer is just too yummy and I got distracted.  But... I'm turning over a new leaf now that Summer is winding down. I've skipped over a TON of things that may or may not ever make it into this blog:  Summer trips, my daughter's first 4th of July (she kept calling firecrackers "fire trucks"...and we kinda just let her b/c at least she knows fire trucks are bright and shiny but firecrackers???  crackers are something dry that you eat.  not in the least shiny and explosive), nearly daily trips to the pool where Ben jumped off the high dive for the first time and where we learned that our girl is a FISH with NO FEAR!... But one event happened that I just can't pass up and that I must get on this blog before school starts next week and everything in our lives gets back into a routine.  And the must-blog story is this:


My brother, AKA:  Staff Sergeant Tracy Friend came back from his 3rd (read it people!  THIRD!) tour in Iraq safe and sound and I thank God so much for that.  He has given up so much of himself and his life to serve our country.  Three whole years away from his family... but hopefully (God willing!) this will have been his last.

Last year as he was deploying I cried out to seven dear friends of mine asking them to pray for him and for his family as he was leaving them for an entire year.  These amazing women- and I mean AMAZING- went above and beyond by teaming up and deciding that between the 7 of them they could divide the days of the week, and if they each took one day and committed to pray for Tracy on that day, they could absolutely have him covered in prayer EVERY day of his deployment for a year!!!!!  Can you believe they did this???  For some it became such a family ritual that when my friends forgot, their kids reminded them!  Some whose kids are friends with my kids prayed for "Uncle Tracy" (b/c he is my kids' Uncle) to the point where they were asking, "Is my Uncle Tracy coming to my birthday party?"

Being in a war can mess you up.  It can mess you up in so many ways.  My prayer for Tracy has always been for the Lord to protect him in every way: physically, mentally, spiritually, and psychologically.  I know that Tracy's health (in all the above areas) was protected and that is due in great part to the prayers of my friends.  I had them take a picture holding up their "day" so that I could sent them to Tracy to let him know that he was covered in prayer every single day he was gone.  Here, I am PROUD to show you my dear, dear friends:

This is my dear friend Becky and her kids who I adore.  They prayed on Sunday nights for my brother- every Sunday night for a YEAR!!!  Thank you Ussery fam.

This is my dear friend Andrea and her kids.  They prayed for "Uncle Tracy" every Monday for a YEAR!!!  Thank you Jobe Family!

This is my dear friend Jewel who prayed for my brother every Tuesday for a YEAR!!!  Thank you Jewel.  

This is my dear friend Kaysie who prayed for my brother every Wednesday for a YEAR!!!  Thank you Kays.

This is my BFF Kelly who prayed for my brother every Thursday for a YEAR!!!  Thanks Kel.
This is my dear friend Molly who prayed for my brother every Friday for a YEAR!!!  Thank you Molly.  

And last but FAR from least... My dear friend Ronna had the hardest day of all- she volunteered to pray for my brother every Saturday for a YEAR!!!  Thank you so much Ronna. 
Can you believe they did that???  They are totally gonna HATE me for putting these pix on here and will probably demand that I take them down.  But I won't.  They are all beautiful, amazing women who deserve to be recognized for this incredible thing they did for me.  Some of them have never even MET my brother- and still they wanted to pray for him for an entire year.  Such friends... you just can't even know how blessed I am by my friends...

On the spur of the moment my family decided to drive to Kansas for Tracy's homecoming, and I'm so glad we did!  My little nephew Ian was so excited to get to see his Daddy.  He just didn't understand why we all had to go out to eat without getting his Daddy first (even though it was the night before he was scheduled to arrive!)  :-)

The Army isn't exactly known for it's flash and panache, so the ceremony was pretty simple.  All the family members were waiting on bleachers- waiting for the moment when they would first catch sight of their loved ones who they hadn't seen in so long.  We made signs...

We all waited trying to be patient, but then my brother started texting me letting me know they were getting close to arriving.  And then, just when the kids were getting restless, a song started playing (no idea what) and the men and women who have been serving our country away from their families for the past year started marching in.  If you know me at all, it will be no surprise to hear that I instantly started weeping.  It was an amazing moment.  I don't think there was a dry eye in the house.  I have heard that the speeches by the Major Generals at these events can drag on, but this guy must have been just as anxious to see his family as everyone else was.  After everyone filed in, they saluted, played the Star Spangled Banner, and the Major General (or whatever he was) just said, "Dismissed!"  and everyone started rushing everywhere to be with their loved ones.  

And for the rest, well, I'll let the pictures speak for themselves.  Welcome home, brother.  We are proud of you.


A Real Good Friend said...

ummmm, I sooo would have printed out the word SUNDAY on a sheet of paper, if I'd known I could get away with it. My kids had dry-erase-marker-stains on their hands for DAYS!

Delighted your brother is home. Safely. I love you!

Thank you for the opportunity to live out what I had (hoped to have) imparted to my children about INVESTING themselves in the lives of others, even strangers....they learned first-hand about commitment, family and service through those Sunday mornings. Love to you and yours! Becky

Adrienne said...

If I were on FB, Super Thumbs Up "Like" button! I am so happy your brother is home safely and is able to be surrounded by a lot of love and support! And to see the faces of your weekday prayer team...priceless! So cool they did that, Gayla! Congratulations on a sweet homecoming and now, it's okay if you neglect your blog again because living life is what counts, not necessarily writing it all down...go enjoy! xoxox

Lindsey said...

I love this post! We dont' tell our service men and women enough how much we appreciate them. And your friends TOTALLY rock!

wildflowers said...

this was a sweet post. very special and a good post for
ya-alls memories to reflect on.

thanks for sharing :)

Karenkool said...

Beautiful! Happy Summer days. Thank God for the people of prayer and for bringing Tracy home safely.

Sohailah said...

Tears in my eyes, definitely. So proud, so thankful, so glad.

Evan said...

I've been a silent observer to your blog for awhile now-until now. You have a beautiful family! If you would please tell your brother how much his service is appreciated! I don't know if our selfless service men and women are told enough how much we appreciate not only them but their families for sacrificing so much of their time and energy and sometimes their lives for our freedom. Soo... Thank you,
Thank you!!!! Great pics of the homecoming! Looks like he has one happy little boy on his hands!

Anonymous said...

This is one if not the BEST post I ever read!! So happy for your family! You truly have WONDERFUL friends!!!

Many Blessings,
Sandra xox

Heidi Jo said...

what a fantastic chain of prayer! i love this idea! what a happy reunion of love and family!

Mark and Heidi said...

This has me in tears, especially those last few pictures! So glad your brother's home safely and your friends rock!

Anjanette said...

OK, those last two pics are too much! So sweet. So happy for your whole family.

Selam! G'day! Hello!