Across the country, troops returning from war in Iraq face two homecomings.
The first is the cheering crowds and big smiles from well-wishers along parade routes. The second is the quieter one, as soldiers reconnect with spouses, children and the daily household routines that a war displaced.
For Lt. Cmdr. Brent Kelln aboard the USS Abraham Lincoln (search), it'll mean enjoying long showers and no uniforms, said his wife, Shauna Kelln of Oak Harbor, Wash.
Homecoming also means catching up with his three children. The youngest, at 3, has spent nearly a third of his young life without dad. In the meantime, he's watched videotapes of his father telling bedtime stories and listened to audiotapes of his father singing lullabies.
As for Shauna, "You just appreciate having your best friend back."
Many military families have participated in briefings to help them prepare for the homecomings. It can be a difficult time of adjustment and military officials have encouraged families and soldiers to share their expectations to ease the transition.
Chris Campbell, a hospital Corpsman 1st Class (search) aboard the Lincoln, and his wife, Dani, of Marysville, Wash., have been through this before. They plan to celebrate with a cake to make up for missed birthdays, an anniversary, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
"This is our third deployment, it doesn't get any easier," Dani said.
President Bush (search) was scheduled to fly to the Lincoln on Thursday and give a speech to the sailors Friday before the ship docks in San Diego. The aircraft carrier is scheduled to arrive May 6 at its home port of Everett, Wash.
A crew of more than 5,000 remains aboard the ship. The homecoming will cap 290 days at sea, one of the longest deployments for a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier in decades.
Navy Fireman Antonio Myers has a special gift waiting when he steps off the ship. His wife, Tameka, will be presenting him with his first child, a son named Amiri who is now 3 months old.
"He's missing everything. I can't wait for him to get here," Tameka said.
Her husband looks forward to the simple joys of family life.
"He said he just wants to come home, see the kids, take a bath and go to sleep," Tameka said. "He wants to sleep in a normal sized bed. We want to get reacquainted. We'll probably just sit there and stare at each other."
Capt. Dan King, an F-15 E Strike Eagle pilot who returned to his base near Goldsboro, N.C., on April 23, said he planned to take his wife, Lara, and 21-month-old son, Nate, to the mountains for several days so they can catch up.
King, 33, said he thought of his family often during his deployment and what their reunion would be like. "I've dreamt about how this was going to be," he said.
Another Strike Eagle Pilot, Lt. Col. Randy Roberts, said he wants to spend time with his family and tell them what he has been doing for the past few months.
"Everything else is secondary," he said.
Sgt. Corey Samples, an Army field artillery soldier out of Fort Stewart, Ga., has already told his wife what he wants for his homecoming: a renewal of their wedding vows.
His wife, Julie Samples, is already making plans in case her husband returns by their anniversary on June 29, though she's been told it could be eight to 12 weeks before he's home.
She wants the ceremony performed on the beach at Tybee Island off Savannah, Ga. "I just want something where we're barefoot with the long dress floating in the breeze, something simple," Julie Samples said.
Army Cpl. Shawn Porter, based in Fort Sill, Okla., has spent three months overseas. He misses the pleasures of being with his five kids, enjoying his own bed, watching "Friends," and dining on barbecue ribs and homemade tortilla dip.
"He can't wait to come home and cuddle with me and the kids and watch TV," said his wife, Michelle, who also is planning a trip to Mexico so the two of them can get reacquainted.