High-Profile Homecomings

The NYT's Jan Hoffman fleshes out the debate over servicemembers surprising their kids upon returning from overseas deployment:

“Some people think it’s totally fine,” said Lillian Connolly, a mother of four who leads support groups for military families in Brockton, Mass. “But I recommend to families not to surprise children. The child has been without a parent for so long. The child can hold anger. You never know how they’re going to react.” Mrs. Connolly, whose husband is on his third deployment in Iraq for the Army Reserve, added: “And in front of the media? I don’t think it’s fair.”

On the other hand:

The adulation from classmates at these special moments can be reparative, parents say. Peers may finally empathize with the turmoil of a child whose parent is deployed. How bad could a little glory be?

“Nobody paid attention to me, it was all about Hannah,” said Master Sgt. Joseph Myers, of the video in June that vaulted onto national broadcasts showing the reaction of his 10-year-old freeze-frame expressions ranging from incredulity to ecstatic relief when he walked into her Randolph Elementary School class at Universal City, Tex. Hannah still Googles her name to read new posts, he said, “and to check what ranking she is on the viewings at YouTube.”

For viewers, these moments have a voyeuristic magnetism. They are mini-dramas, representing the anxiety of the ultimate parent-child separation, with a radiant resolution. Institutions that facilitate them can’t help but benefit from the emotional spillover.

Chief among them: the military. Jon Myatt, a spokesman for the Florida Department of Military Affairs, said those called up doctors, butchers, accountants like Major Becar live in communities where people may not understand military families’ ordeal. These reunions and their publicity give a window into their lives. “You don’t get that on the nightly news very much,” Mr. Myatt added.

Continued here.