As a military member and a parent, the holidays can bring mixed feelings.
I am a Petty Officer in the U.S. Navy, and sometimes my job forces its way to the top of my list of priorities and I get deployed away from everything I am accustomed to. But I’m a mother first and foremost, and there is nothing I want more than to be home with my family for the holidays.
In 2012, I departed for a nine-month deployment when my oldest son was 3 and wasn’t home for any holidays or his birthday. While working definitely kept me busy, the underlying feeling of sadness and guilt from not being able to be with my son wore on me for the duration of the deployment.
This year I’m home with my two boys for the holidays, and every moment I spend at home is special. My oldest son and I decorated the house and the tree, and this year I even got an Elf on the Shelf to help bring some holiday cheer. So the mood in the household is perfect and it’s safe to say that we are in the holiday spirit. Gifts are making their way under the tree and smiles get wider with every passing day.
Now that I am no longer attached to a ship, I work at a Naval Hospital in Oceanside, California, and have my children with me year-round. Because we rotate from being deployable to non-deployable every few years, many commands try to make the holidays as special as they can. Our commander often makes her way around to speak to family members and even serves lunch in the cafeteria to staff and patients. It’s great to see leadership out and about. In addition we have command events like our holiday party and the ugly sweater contest, complete with hot chocolate and marshmallows, to get everyone involved in the joyful spirit of the holidays.
As military members we don’t get to spend every holiday at home, so it means a lot to have special events going on when you are home. During this time of year the kids are on break from school and we can take a moment to relax and reboot, but we also take a moment to reflect on the year and on our troops who cannot be home with their loved ones this year.
Although there is no war currently going on, there are still several men and women deployed away from their homes protecting the ground, air and sea. Normally we would try and send a care package to someone who is deployed but this year my son picked out a gift for an underprivileged child his age—our little way of giving back.
We make the most of the time we have together, because we never know if we’ll get that chance next year. As a result of being in the military, you really have a different type of appreciation for the everyday things.