A Raiders Reunion: My Experience Being on the TV Series "Coming Home"
--Guest Post from Tonya Eaton
Tonya's husband Mike surprised their kids with a spectacular reunion in the premiere episode of "Coming Home" which airs Sundays at 10pm/9c.
As a military wife juggling everyday life activities like after schools sports, band, homework, your own college homework, dental/doctor appointments and a job, after months of doing them on your own you finally have to start thinking about when your soldier is due home. It was finally getting to that “countdown” till Dad comes home, but this home coming was totally different from the last two we had experienced. No matter how many you of them go through, they are all moments in life that are memorable and emotional, but this time was totally different for me and my family. My husband got the opportunity to surprise our four teenage children with an experience of a lifetime. He was selected to be featured on Lifetime’s unscriptes series “Coming Home” with Matt Rogers, and not just a simple coming home, one that took place in Oakland, California at a Raiders football game.
I was nervous wreck, more so than ever before, because this required us to do many things for the first time in our lives without my husband to be there to help. We had to fly to California, none of us have ever been on an airplane before; never been to California; never been to an NFL football game much less on the field at half time in front of over 86,000 cheering fans, and never been on national TV or in front of a television camera for anything. Thank goodness my mother-in-law was there by my side through this incredible stress and anxiety filled trip across the country from Fort Campbell, KY to Oakland, CA.
The driving force that kept me going was the knowledge that my husband was already there safe and sound out and of the combat zone in Afghanistan and that I would be in his arms once again very soon. I stayed strong, even under all this added pressure, for him and my children. That’s what we military wives and moms have to do; it’s part of the job description when you sign on for this type of lifestyle. Coming from a small town in southern Missouri, I really had a steep learning curve to figure all that out when my husband and I got together. This surprise homecoming was to be one of those “once in a lifetime” opportunities for us as a family and we were living it all the way through.
I had no idea what to expect, but once we arrived at the airport, the show’s producers and crew took us under their wing and walked us through everything , making us comfortable and explaining everything we would be doing from start to finish. There were no scripts, just questions and interactions with the host and crew that I answered from the heart because those were the only answers I had; real, unscripted, and emotional.
You can hardly imagine the rush of emotions I experienced when our sons kicked field goals in front of the sold out crowd. I was overwhelmed with pride for my boys down on the field, my husband for being a soldier and giving this surprise to all of us. And my girls were at my side through it all, too. The butterflies in my tummy were on overdrive knowing that my husband was already there on the field, only a few feet away, holding the ball for our boys to kick. And they had idea he was there with them! I so wanted to run to him the moment he pulled his helmet off and turned to the kids, but I had to let the kids soak in the moment first. I had to give the girls a gentle nudge though; they froze the moment they first realized their Daddy was right there in front of them the whole time. I had gotten to see him come off the plane in the airport beforehand so I already had my moment with him in front of the cameras.
The entire experience was so surreal to us all and even now we still can’t believe that it was us, really us, that did this together. It is a family memory that will remain in our minds and be the source of laughter and joy for many years to come. Our children’s children will see this and will hear stories about what we did. We are already getting the recognition out in public from strangers who have seen the commercials and the show.
We are so blessed; my husband and I know this. We are a strong family, a blended family, which has shared so much and survived much more. The little moments and memories like these tie us together even more with each passing day and year.
**Watch the new season of "Coming Home" starting Sunday, March 11 at 10pm/9c on Lifetime