The Christmas countdown is setting in and everywhere we look there are reminders of the season. You’ve drawn for Secret Santa at work. You’ve scoured every store for the perfect gifts for everyone on your list. You’re probably looking forward to a get together with all your family and friends.
With all the excitment of the holidays, some things are easily forgotten.
Christmas can be one the hardest times of the year for a family with a deployed soldier. Even with all the family and friends around them there is a constant emptiness. Now imagine you’re on the other side of the world. None of your family is there, except fellow soldiers who are practically family because of everything you have been through together. You have a baby at home that you’ve never met and another child that may not even recognize you because of how small they were when you deployed. Your family has just enough to make ends meet so there is nothing extra for Christmas gifts or care packages.
A friend of mine, Barbara Powden, is an ‘at home hero’. She has the very difficult job of being a military wife. She is also the mother of two beautiful little girls. Her husband, Josh, is a 2nd Class Petty Officer in the Navy and has been deployed twice, totaling 14 months. She has this to say about deployment. “I can tell you the hardest thing about deployment is holidays, birthdays, and anniversaries. It’s tough doing those things without hubby/daddy. Just a phone call from your deployed sailor/soldier on Christmas Day makes the whole day better; it makes you feel emotional yet even more thankful to them for what they do.”
Derek Milles is a veteran of the Iraq war. He enlisted shortly after 9-11. He was a Corporal in an Infantry Unit that was actually part of an invading force that took over the Iraq Airport. He served our country for 4 years and was deployed twice, totaling almost 2 years. Talking to Derek about what it was like to be deployed during the holidays was a bit of a surprise. He admitted that, especially at that time, things were so busy that you actually forgot it was Christmas. Several days at a time seemed to run together and it wasn’t until about a month later that he realized his birthday went by. He said there were some units that were lucky enough to be in an area that celebrities were actually flown in to have concerts and events, but not where he was. Something Derek did remember about a Christmas Eve while he was deployed was loading up in a chopper to go home and it actually started snowing! Derek now volunteers with a group that helps soldiers with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) called Guitars for Vets.
There are a lot of really great avenues out there to help support miltary services members and also their families. Anyone can send a care package to a soldier through AnySoldier.com or you can help meet the needs of a military family in your area by logging on to OperationHomefront.net. Another great service is actually right here in St. Louis. The USO of St. Louis is located in Lambert International Airport. They help to provide the comforts of home for soldeirs that are on their way to boot camp, waiting to deploy, or finally coming home.
More people are affected by a deployed soldier than you realize. Which is just another reason to smile at strangers this holiday season, because they may just be missing someone special.
Here’s something to help put that smile on your face. This Christmas, ET2 Josh Powden, is home with his wife and daughters.
(A special thank you to Josh and Derek for everything you have sacrificied and for your service to our country. Also, to your families who support, love, and encourage you.)