Somewhere, A Soldier Is Missing Their Home
On December 25, 2009, while I was gathered with my extended family in the living room to open presents, my phone rang. A ridiculously long and odd number appeared on my screen, and my heart jumped into my throat.
I immediately sprang out of my chair and rushed to the back bedroom for some privacy.
“Hello?” I said, breathlessly.
“Merry Christmas, honey,” a beautiful voice told me from halfway around the world. It was him!
Him. My him. My amazing, wonderful, for-richer-or-poorer him, all the way from Iraq, calling to wish me a Merry Christmas. For him, Christmas was already over, as he was nine hours ahead of us. He told me they had eaten chicken that actually tasted quite good, and he had received my care package with individually wrapped presents that he was supposed to have waited to open until Christmas morning (but he hadn't!).
And that was it. The end.
He listened as I talked about the gifts I had purchased for our family members, and how the pies I had made this year turned out, and what size the packages were that my parents had been waiting for him to open when he returned home. He listened, inserting thoughtful sounds in all the right places, but it was obvious his heart wasn't in it.
He wanted it to be, I know, but there's something about having a holiday described to you that makes not being able to celebrate it even more depressing. And he couldn't celebrate it.
He explained that he had to go, that there was a line of service members behind him, all of them waiting to call their families. My eyes welled up as they always did when we had to end our conversations, with my mind wandering down dangerous paths, like wondering if this was the last time I would ever speak to him. Dangerous, emotional paths.
He told me he loved me and he couldn't wait until we were together again, and I told him the same.
He finally did come home the following February, and through three deployments, that is the only Christmas he has missed. And while it wasn't the longest deployment we weathered together, there was something very difficult about being apart for the holidays. There is so much to do with family, so many memories being made that should never be without such an important and pivotal part of the puzzle.
Somewhere, there are so many service members missing their families at this very moment. Care packages help and phone calls and emails keep us in touch now more than ever, and as a military spouse, I can say I am more grateful for technology than most people. But none of that takes the place of being home with the people you love and celebrating those holiday traditions. There's nothing anyone can do to lessen the pain or ease the burden — it is what it is. He signed up for it, and I married him, so it's part of the package.
But it's still tough to weather.
So, this season, as you sip egg nog and continue the tradition of watching National Lampoon's A Christmas Vacation or driving around town as a family looking at lights, squeeze your loved ones a little bit tighter. Be extra grateful they are there to spend these moments that we so often take for granted. Even though I've been through it, I forget. I forget that there are spouses crying right now, angry that their other half is gone yet again, and whose kids are asking Santa for Daddy (or Mommy) to come home.
Remember those who are across the world from their families right now and thank them. I do.
Thank you to all who serve. May your holidays be joyful and your homecoming be imminent.