Dear New Military Spouse,
Christmas is upon us, and you are here, in the military Christmas life, maybe for the first time.
Are you spending it hundreds of miles from your hometown family? Are you spending it with your hometown family, while your service member is deployed? Or, like I did ten years ago, are you spending it overseas, away from every person and every tradition you’ve ever known?
I feel you. I really do. This is a big adjustment. But, the good thing is that’s all it is: an adjustment. And you will get through to the other side.
To those of you who are feeling sad, I humbly ask that you read on.
When you think about it, what is it that you miss? People, traditions, feeling warm and comfortable in a familiar place, clinking glasses in merriment, laughter? Those are all special things, and, if you focus on them, their absence can leave you feeling cold and lonely. But, lift your head and open your eyes, and you’ll see an open door. It’s a door to something different, but equally special to the Christmases you’ve known and loved. That “something” is your military family, and Christmas with them is rich and warm, alive and jubilant.
As I’ve experienced it, Christmas in the military draws the joyful spirit of the season in probably the most authentic way. Christmas is special because people find great pleasure in giving of themselves, in supporting the less fortunate, in making friends and even perfect strangers feel loved. Christmas in the military is no different.
This is the time of year when military families open their warm homes to friends and families who are also away from hometown families. They share in each other’s traditions – family recipes, gift exchanges, joyful parties. They toast to each other, and to those who they keep in their hearts.
No one is ever turned away. And last-minute guests who come empty-handed are greeted with hugs, food and drinks, and a place at the table. There is always room for more.
This is the time of year when military families join together to serve people who are in need. Military families understand that although they are without much-loved and well worn traditions, they still have so much for which to be thankful. And so giving to others is the least they can do.
They join with a unit-led effort to volunteer at a shelter or bring cookies to single service members who are far from home. They ensure that spouses of deployed service members are cared for, reducing stress and work for them as best they can. Recently I attended a spouses’ Christmas party for my husband’s unit.
A woman whose husband is deployed came, bringing along her infant twins. My heart sang as I watched those two darling little ones snuggle in the arms of many willing “surrogates,” who were eager to cuddle and happy to let their mom eat with two hands and put her feet up with friends. The best part was that, although she surely longed for her husband, the mom knew she could rely on everyone there.
This is the time of year that military families drum up the best parts about themselves: their creativity, resourcefulness, and resilience. They kick homesickness to the curb with a hefty humph, and they create new traditions. They pile into the car to go look at Christmas lights. They leave their door open to all, and they experience the joy of “friends who are like family.” They actively choose to forget about the nasty demon of homesickness and instead recognize that this home – this new, and ever changing home – is just that: home.
Believe it or not, new military spouse, you are home for the holidays.
You are with all of us. All of us now, and all who have gone before you. You are with spouses who would delight in setting a place for you. You are with people who want nothing more than to share time with you and spread the joy of the season. You are with people who believe wholeheartedly in the spirit of Christmas. As a very wise military spouse and friend of mine said, Christmas in the military is a time to celebrate, not commiserate.
So this year, if the rest of our wide sea of spouses will permit me, I offer a toast to you, New Military Spouse:
May you feel the warmth of your new extended family. May the spirit of giving wrap its arms around you and comfort you. May smiles from strangers warm your heart. May the welcoming from new friends fire your soul. May you experience the peace of the season here, at home, with us.
Here’s to you, New Military Spouse,
From all of us