After we found each other at the Homecoming Ceremony, we eventually realized we couldn't just stand there indefinitely, & would have to leave the Air Field at some point! It was still very early when we left - probably no later than 06:15 - but we wandered back to the car & M took me on a little guided tour around part of the base, albeit still in the dark!
As daylight began to break, we headed back to the hotel & snoozed a while. Then it was time for a late breakfast - M had made a special request for omelette & waffles, so off to a local diner we went, & he seemed to be in heaven! Afterwards we hit the mall since he had no civilian clothes to wear - they were all either at his parents’ home in NC, or in a storage unit & apparently not easily accessible. I was impressed though with the ease by which he managed to choose enough clothes to get by for a few weeks. One of the reasons I hate shopping is because I hate trying on clothes & it always takes me forever (& a lot of trying-on) to find clothes that seem suitable for me. So the fact that we pretty much had a wardrobe's worth of clothing in under an hour was quite impressive to me.
I was then instructed to find a quiet corner of the mall's parking lot so M could change. That too was quite impressive (and amusing). Soon he looked civilian, & we went off for our first lunch at one of his favorite Mexican restaurants. Seeing his excitement at eating some “real” food for the first time, both at breakfast & lunch, was a lot of fun. He'd told me that he felt they were well-fed while in Iraq, but I can only imagine that the ability to once again freely choose whatever you want to eat, as well as where you want to eat it, must be wonderful, if not somewhat overwhelming. M seemed to be doing a great job of hiding the overwhelmed bit though!
Later we had a lovely "first evening" too - mostly courtesy of our champagne & chocolate. I’d brought champagne as part of his “Welcome Home” gift, & he’d brought some nice chocolate from Germany. We’d grabbed a fruit tray earlier that day (as well as some more chocolate), so we settled in for some tasty treats that night. Before I traveled down there I'd been looking for some travel-safe "wine glass-looking" things - you know, the plastic type ones that you often see in the summer that folk choose for around the pool etc. I couldn't find any though, so I decided to just pick up a couple of cheap wine glasses that I wouldn't object to finding shattered in my suitcase when I arrived in Columbus. Amazingly they'd survived the trip, all wrapped up in some bedsheets that I'd brought along too - I'd packed some things like this that I thought might be immediately useful for him until he could get into his storage unit at some point. So anyhow, it was actually quite nice having real glasses to drink from!
The next couple of days brought a few more shopping trips so M could continue to gather odds & ends that he needed, as well as some preliminary investigation of his storage unit. As soon as I saw the unit, I realized why he would've had a hard time finding anything in there quickly - it was packed full, barely room for anything else other than maybe some flat objects at the front. I'd half expected a couple of long-lost relatives to emerge from the back at one point.....
We also checked out some apartments - he had a 10 day pass to the barracks upon return, but he was reluctant to even stay there for that short time since it was an open bay arrangement, sharing with who-knows-how-many other soldiers. Thankfully on my last day there, we found a place that he really liked. And I must admit I really like it too, I'm extremely glad he chose that location - the complex is relatively new, and it's close to the base so commuting is easy for him. All in all it's nice, modern & very well maintained.
In the meantime, however, we managed to enjoy some more nice lunches & dinners together, as well as having some fun during the day. M showed me around some more of the base at Fort Benning, & we visited the National Infantry Museum which is fabulous - I recommend it highly if you ever get the chance to visit. It's a great museum in its own right, & is pretty big too, with some great exhibitions.
They are more than "just" a museum though - they have an IMAX theater, & we popped in there to see "Lewis & Clark's Great Journey West" - stunning scenery as well as an interesting, historical recap of their exploration to the Pacific Ocean & back east. In one part of the museum there's even a shooting range that you can try your skills at - it's a rifle simulator, so no live ammunition, but was quite a treat for me. I'd never even held a gun before, so it was all new & exciting. I was actually pleased at how relatively well I managed to do too! Although I was also mightily relieved that M did way better than me! Yes, I definitely prefer it when our US soldiers perform better than me with a rifle.
You should also make a point to enjoy the museum's nice restaurant, The Fife & Drum, at some point if you visit. The grounds outside are lovely too, and you may even be lucky enough to get to catch a graduation ceremony taking place while you're there.
All in all, our first long weekend together whizzed by quickly, & soon it was time for me to head back to MA on the Sunday evening. We checked out of the hotel & picked up a rental car for M (since his was in NC with his parents). I drove back to Atlanta for my flight & he headed off to stay with a friend & his wife for a few nights until his new apartment was ready.
I have to say though, that while I really enjoyed the fun things we'd done during our first few days, I enjoyed the little things just as much - things like just watching our first sunset together with a glass of wine, or chatting at the poolside & in the jacuzzi.
I suspected that was a good start.