The holiday season is always a special time of year for many families. Singing Christmas Carols, decorating the tree, giving and receiving presents and so much more.
However, for many families within the military it can be very lonely with their loved ones deployed or being away from their family. All over the world military families have to endure a long holiday season without that special someone who is a part of our Armed Forces or being in a remote station without friends.
As a child of a Coast Guardsman and spouse of a Seabee, I have also been through many holidays without my family. One thing I came to realize is that I am not alone. I had the pleasure many years ago to be invited over to another military family’s home to spend Christmas while my husband was away. They showed me so much kindness and even made sure my daughter and I had a present under the tree.
I have been through many duty stations over the years, and I have seen the difficulty of being separated from family and friends at such an important time of year. My friends and I made it our mission to make sure we reached out to as many families as we could. I can’t tell you how much I enjoy meeting new people and showing them that they have military brothers and sisters ready to help them get through tough times.
While stationed in Iceland, my husband and I invited all the single sailors over to our home for Christmas dinner and made sure each of them had a gift waiting for them, it was a simple box with small items, like cologne, summer sausage and cheeses, handmade Icelandic gloves and a personal note to each signed by the family. We are still friends with many of these sailors who have gone on to make a family of their own, but they still remember what we did for them over 10 years ago and they work to carry on the tradition. Just recently one of those sailors new spouses sent me a letter with a picture of the note I wrote. She said that her husband tells her all the time about how our family showed him something special. I did not realize that this sailor didn’t have a family back home at the time. She told me that her sailor will be opening their home this Christmas.
Another story was of a family whose sailor was deployed with mine. I had met her in the commissary and we just started to chat. I was having a home business show in the next few days for the final Christmas orders. She came and she laughed and had a blast. During Christmas, I invited her over to the house and we had a really horrible dinner because we got so distracted the food burned. We became fast friends and eventually I signed her on to my team with my home business. It wasn’t until two years later that she told me her story. That day in the commissary she was going through the motions, she was depressed and had been contemplating suicide. She was so young and wasn’t sure how she could go on being so far from home, her parents passed away, and now her sailor was deployed. She told me that my invitations and the love of other military spouses really made her feel loved.
Taking the time to reach out to military families and help them through the holidays is not only important, it is vital to keeping our armed forces strong. Showing new spouses that you care for them can make all the difference to one family. How do you think you can help a military family this Christmas?
Each situation is unique, but opening your heart and home to another military family can really be a wonderful gift to them and to you. My experiences through the holidays have had many ups and downs. Each Christmas helps me form new relationships and new bonds with military families from all over the globe. So when you are thinking of that invitation list and who to invite, step outside of your comfort zone and take the chance to extend your military family this Christmas!