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Extreme Homecomings

by Ethan Tussey

by Hattie Daily for IN MEDIA RES

Clips like this one litter the internet. In fact, this format is so popular that they made an actual television series called "Coming Home," which helps service members surpise their families upon returning home. This clip in particular has it all: football, a perfectly balanced one of each family, and a soldier dad. 

At the beginning of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the media made due with simple footage of unscripted military homecomings. We all teared up a little as we watched service members at various generic looking military airfields and seaports fall into the arms of their loved ones. Like most propaganda, it served its purpose, helping those of us at home heal from the shock of 9/11. 

Then the wars lasted a long, long time (let's not forget, one is still going), and the new wore off. Rather than shift the dialogue to various issues affecting service members and their families, the media came up with a bigger, better homecoming. This particular version fits perfectly into the age of internet celebrity and reality television. We get more than a homecoming, we get an unveiling orchestrated with all the theatricality of those extreme makeover shows. It's awesome, and huge, and it's almost always, a white, physically whole, heterosexual man surprising his faithful wife and two kids. Even after the inclusion of women in combat arms specialties and the repeal of DADT--no girls and no gays.

Not only is it a completley unrealistic representation of the men and women who make up our armed forces, it is, like much of the staged reality we see on television, completely lacking in substance. People claim to love shows like this because they are "for the troops." As soon as they put away the marching band and confetti cannon, those same people change the channel.

Military Family Reunion

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Surprise reunion of soldier with his family at a football game

from Coming Home: Football Reunion (2012)
Creator: Lifetime
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Ethan Tussey