November 2018

Keeping a Holiday Heart in the Military

Author: Angela Krysevig

The holidays seem to arrive earlier and earlier each year. By the time the last few pieces of Halloween candy have been eaten and the Jack-O-Lantern has started to sag on the front porch, the Christmas season is in full swing. The holidays are a joyous occasion for many, filled with family, friends and festivities. And amidst all the gifts, parties and family visits, it is easily forgotten that, for some, the holiday is a lonely reminder that something (or someone) is missing.

For some military families, it can be challenging to invoke feelings of good cheer. Holidays spent away from extended family or from a beloved duty station can be depressing. And, of course, deployment during this time of year is especially difficult for families.

Contrast our comfort and coziness this season to the dry, dusty, dirty conditions of the Middle East. A deployed spouse may be able to join in on the holiday festivities by Skype, if it is working. Military families have learned to make the best out of whatever hand they have been dealt.

Because this time of year can evoke feelings of loneliness and overwhelm for a service member’s family, it is best to take a moment to reflect on the many things we have to be thankful for. That doesn’t mean that we can’t feel the absence of a service member deployed, or be homesick for longtime holiday traditions that are now hundreds of miles (and expensive airfare) away. Remembering what we have to be thankful for will give us the strength to get through the tough stuff.

I have had many difficult holidays as a military spouse, but I realize how fortunate I am. My blessings are countless, and the military has given me many of them. Here are a few things I am grateful to the military for this holiday season:

Appreciation of time. It’s impossible to take time for granted anymore, and I have learned not to squander it. It is precious and fleeting, and you don’t know when it will run out. My husband and I are either begging for it to slow down before a separation, or pleading with it to speed up during one. I’ve seen how fast the hours and minutes can fly, and how slowly they can go. Time is hardly ever on your side. When my husband is home, especially during the holidays, it is the greatest gift I could ever be given.

Being stationed away from family. I know, this is the antithesis of what I just said, but in some ways, it has worked to our advantage as husband and wife. My husband and I have learned to depend on each other and to work as a team. We have a stronger relationship because of it.

Friends who become family. Friends are essential to surviving military life. Our friends have become a second family, especially during the holidays. We create new traditions together, we pool our resources so no one has to be alone for a meal, and we are sensitive to the emotional challenges this lifestyle can present during this time of year. Military life forces you to develop friendships at a rapid pace, and the ones you do develop are usually lifelong bonds. Our military family is the biggest blessing of military life. I cherish them all, and love that this family grows with every single move.

To be among heroes. There is a growing disconnect in today’s society between civilians and the military. This military-civilian “gap”—the social and cultural divide between those who have served and those who have not—has been discussed in various articles and studies. Iraq and Afghanistan veterans are often portrayed in mainstream media, movies and TV shows as unstable PTSD victims who need to be medicated to function in everyday society. That doesn’t necessarily enhance the public’s perception of veterans and often makes veterans feel even more alienated. In reality, they are heroes, and we owe them an incredible debt of gratitude. They have committed their lives to something bigger than themselves, and it is inspiring to be a part of that. As a spouse, I am not a hero. But by supporting the service of my husband, I know that I am making a difference as well, and for that, I am thankful. I hold my husband and his dedication to his country in the highest regard. I am eternally grateful to have been a part of this life for the past six years. Here’s to many more!

So this year, as we gather around whatever table, in whatever part of the world, with whatever family is available, I hope that we can all remember the wonderful blessings that come along with being a member of a military family. You may have your hero at your table, or you may be hoping to get a treasured phone call. Or, you may not be military at all. If that is the case, pause and give thanks to those who have sacrificed time with their loved ones so that your family could be together without worry or care. No matter what the circumstances, take the time to be thankful, lean on each other, and embrace the meaning of the holiday.
Happy Holidays!

Angela Krysevig, originally from Pittsburgh, lives in Augusta, Georgia with her husband, son and daughter. She operates a blog, https://armywifeandmommylife.svbtle.com/, which chronicles her experiences as a military wife and mother.

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