photo credit: youngqists.weebly.com
As a military brat, I had my fair share of holidays without my dad around. I think it’s impossible to have a military career without being deployed for the holidays at least once. And while we always felt as though something was missing when dad’s loud laugh wasn’t heard around the Christmas tree, we still had plenty of family and friends around to fill in the gap.
It wasn’t until I enlisted myself that I really started to think about what it’s like for those service members that are deployed, serving all over the world, during the holiday season.
My first Christmas away from family was one I will never forget (here’s that story) and I am hardly alone when it comes to celebrating the holidays in unique ways.
Read on to see how servicemembers from around the world have made the most of a hard time.
Lindsey (VA): “The Muslims told us happy Christ-mass while we were in Bahrain.”
Chuck (AZ): “I spent Christmas in a hotel in Bahrain. I was surprised by Christmas trees, decorations, caroling and the place full of locals celebrating. Apparently some Muslims observe Christmas just like we do.”
Kevin (OH): “I spent Christmas in Oman, twice, and being that is was a Muslim country and because of where it was located, it couldn’t have felt any less like Christmas on the outside. What was important was how we felt inside the ship and the shop and the things we did to make it count. We always decorated as much as you can decorate a warship. Amazon and care packages really helped to get things to us, so the decorations we had were decent. We also always had a gag gift exchange within the division. It was never mandatory, but it always seemed to bring the people together. Although in today’s Navy some of those gifts probably would have got people sent to mast for hazing, it was still a good time.”
Carrie (Bahrain): “I’m currently in Bahrain, but one thing that I do with my daughter was actually her idea. She wanted to do Christmas before I left and when I get back since I’ll be away for a year. We set up a Christmas tree at my mom’s house this summer and hung stockings, baked cookies, the whole nine yards. She calls it her summer Christmas. (Yes, I still send winter Christmas gifts.)”
Nicole (SC): “Loved when I was underway on the USS Roosevelt in 2001. We all saved our presents to open on Christmas morning. We were allowed to come into the office with our PJs on and we drank hot chocolate and went around the office opening presents. If I couldn’t be with my family at least I was with my office family.”
Stephanie (CO): “It’s hard being away from family period for me. But it’s even worse over the holidays. When I was sent IA to Djibouti for a year my mom sent me a tiny Christmas tree with mini ornaments and everything. I had that set up in my personal space and then I played Christmas music. They had the holiday scented Fabreeze so I could have the smell of cookies baking in there. Of course, part of being deployed and being in the Navy is finding a second family. My little group got together at the galley to eat and share stories from home.”
Sabrina (VA): “I think the hardest part about being away is missing family and those family traditions everyone shares. However, new traditions are made with your Navy family and that was something that everyone on my ship made happen. My ship was out to sea and not in port for any of the major holidays. They made the holidays memorable with organized events and good food. You make the most of deployment. You remember that you signed the contract to protect those around you and you realize very quickly that it’s worth it to have to miss out on the holidays.”
Tori (FL): “I was deployed for Thanksgiving and Christmas in 2011. That Thanksgiving was one of the best I can remember. People missed their families of course. What I enjoyed was seeing everyone relaxing with amazing food and trying to enjoy the day the best they could.”
Annie (VA): “I’ve only been deployed for one Thanksgiving, in 2012. But I was raised in a Navy family where we didn’t always get holidays together. We said it didn’t matter about the day it was, what mattered was spending it with friends and family. Growing up I had a Christmas during the summer one time because my dad was deployed. The Thanksgiving I was deployed, I spent time with my Navy family talking about our families and what we would be doing in we were home. It was a great experience hearing all the different traditions everyone followed.”
Jenn (CA): “I’ve been deployed three times during the holidays. My best memory was Christmas and Thanksgiving 2014. I was on midwatch and got to run a turkey trot 5k with my team before eating dinner together. We shared stories of our family traditions and created a family wall in our shop. We would post pictures and cards that family sent out to keep up morale.”
Beverly (NC): “I was deployed to Lajes, Portugal back in 1990. I remember cooking Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners, ten minute free calls back to the states, squadron shipmates singing carols all day, coming up with ugly sweater contests and just missing family. This was back before laptops and Facetime!”
Kitty (Japan): “My funniest memory while deployed was on Christmas Eve in 2011. We pulled into Hong Kong the next day. There was someone on the ship that had a Grinch costume and was going around in it the entire day, dancing and messing with people. They spend the meal hours near chow lines taking a lot of pictures with people. Really brightened the morale of the crew!”
Kylie (FL): “In 2009 I was stationed in Guam and a few friends and I decided to go scuba diving on Christmas day. We laugh still when we tell our story that only in Guam could you go scuba diving on Christmas day. The water is so clear and warm year round!”
To all those families out there who are separated this week, we thank you and we love you!