Dear Milspouse With A Deployed Loved One,
I saw you the other day, taking a morning jog in the frosty air. You reminded me of those lonely runs I used to take, to clear my head and jump start another long day.
You probably vacillate between hating and loving this time of year. It’s the Christmas season. There’s no way to avoid the Christmas cheer. On the other hand, while your loved one eats MRE’s and sleeps on a cot, the guilt you feel celebrating without them is constant.
Growing up, Christmas is ingrained in our minds as a time of joy. The wonder of waking up in the wee dark hours and finding a stashed Christmas tree always brought shivers of anticipation. Like many children on Christmas Eve, I would stay up as late as I could and sneak cups of coffee and eggnog while the grown-ups talked around the fire. The night felt shorter that way.
The season was filled with parties and games, white elephant gifts and cookie exchanges. Every year, I made gingerbread houses and prayed they wouldn’t collapse before Christmas day. During the Christmas Eve service I stare in wonder at my flickering candle while singing Silent Night.
Then, in a moment, I grew up. I learned there is never peace on earth, good will to men. Some spend holidays with little more than an artificial table top tree and a single strand of lights. Others look forward to a box from home that carries a two week old cookie concoction. It never tastes stale to them. Sometimes, the heart lifting strains of Joy to the World are mingled with the soulful notes of Taps.
For those at home, Christmas morning is about waking up to the bed half empty. It’s about enduring all the well-wishers, the drudgery of carrying the shopping bags yourself.
You watch How the Grinch Stole Christmas and feel your Christmas was stolen by a Grinch called war.
Your husband might be toting a chest full of armor plates, while you carry a fussing toddler through a crowded department store. Your wife might be staunching wounds while you staunch the tears of a lonely child who just wants their mom home for Christmas.
You may weep when your favorite Christmas song comes across the radio. You might bake dozens of batches of Christmas cookies, or spend hours volunteering, serving others for the sake of one who is thousands of miles away. You might spend Christmas alone with the kids, celebrating a Skype call to wish your other half a Merry Christmas.
This year, there might not be enough to send out Christmas cards. You might be too busy mailing care packages and filling out those pesky customs forms. And that’s ok.
This year, you don’t have to celebrate. You have the right to be real. You have earned it. Christmas isn’t always about the gifts, the sparkling tinsel and the lavish feasts. It’s about sacrifice; it’s about hearing the distorted sound of a Soldiers voice; it’s about sharing at a distance only love can span.
Your sacrifices, your loved ones sacrifices, are the reason I can celebrate in peace with my own Soldier this Christmas. I pray next Christmas, your Family will be whole again, and that this Christmas, you feel the love of this grateful military wife.
Hope Myers is a Fort Bragg Army spouse and a photojournalist with the Paraglide Newspaper. When she’s not out taking photos, she likes to spend time with her husband. Telling people’s stories is her passion, whether with the camera or the pen. She would love your thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org .
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This brings back memories from the years I spent the holidays alone. The trigger for me was always hearing “I’ll be home for Christmas” on the radio. He wouldn’t be home, and I knew that, but part of me always wished we’d be one of those families that had a surprise homecoming and he’d pop out of a box on Christmas Eve or something like that.