Christmas In Wartime

“Family away from Family” Story by Staff Sgt. Robert Petersen

Well for some Soldiers it is easy to be out on your own and away from home, but for others it is a very trying time being deployed. There are so many things that are missed while you’re away, especially when it’s for 15 months. There are events such as birthdays, parties, your typical weekend off, your children’s school and sporting events, anniversaries, and of course the holidays, that all go by out of normal routine during that time. The best thing to do is to make the most out of it, and try not to get down during these times. The Army does a great job of trying to help the Soldiers adjust and keep active, but let’s face it, it’s just not the same as if they were celebrated with your immediate family. One way to make the most out of the holiday season is to decorate. Yes it’s true that there are many different religions, origins, ethnic backgrounds and traditions throughout the military, so make sure that it’s all right with everyone and try to include a little bit of everything from everyone’s preference. Luckily when my Soldiers and I celebrated the holiday season, we were able to agree on everything that was displayed, and it did bring a sense of calm to the shop. Our plan for Christmas was one that is pretty common and practiced in a lot of work areas all over the place, not just the military. We decided to go the route of the “grab-bag” or “secret Santa” exchange. We placed all of the Soldiers’ names that were participating, in a hat, (which was all eight of us) and then we picked names blindly. We had an agreement that we wouldn’t over-spend, so we set a low dollar amount for gifts (which was completely voluntarily). So, right around Christmas day we played our Christmas music on our shop computer and proceeded on to exchanging gifts. Everything went smooth, and it was a good day. It really brought up the spirits of the guys-we had a great time. There were some laughs, and it was truly a time of camaraderie. After everything was handed out, and all thanks were given, it was back to work as normal.

Of course the base dining facilities (DFAC) were very festive and they had decorations up and served traditional Christmas dishes. So if it’s the home cooked meal that you’re missing, they do their best to cater to that. You can definitely go into the DFAC with an empty stomach and leave the place like you would as if you were at home. Granted, you can’t just roll off of the dining chair onto a big comfy couch, but you can feel free to sit until closing time without actually being booted out. If it’s the leftovers that you’re missing, there’s normally no problem with you getting a to-go plate so that you can make that turkey sandwich for lunch the next day.

So to all the Soldiers that I’ve had the great opportunity to celebrate the holiday seasons with: thank you for all of your hard work, for helping to make the most of the holidays, and for being the family away from my family.