Celebrating Holidays in the Army…or Forgetting Them Entirely

It’s that time of year again. While many soldiers are returning from Iraq (though most not quite in time for the holidays), there are still thousands deployed to Afghanistan and other places around the globe.

The deployment when my husband was overseas for the holidays was the toughest one for me. It just completely changed the holiday season. Unlike many of you who have kids, I was able to just ignore the existence of any holiday. Or at least I tried. Now that we have a son, I know I couldn’t do that as I would need to try to maintain some sense of normal for him. But when it was just me… Christmas? What’s that?

My family wanted me to come home so I wouldn’t be on my own. But I didn’t want anything to do with being around others who were filled with the Christmas spirit when my husband was on the other side of the world. I knew his Christmas would suck so I guess in some ways I felt guilty carrying on as normal.

Which is strange – it was the only time during the deployment when I felt guilty for what I was able to do that he wasn’t. I didn’t feel that way if I went out to eat or went to a movie or to the beach. But the holidays were different. I just didn’t want to have to put on a fake smile for everyone and soldier on.

So I didn’t. I stayed at home by myself. I went to watch movies at the theater. I baked cookies for the guards at the gate and others who had to work on Christmas day. And for anyone who knows me, you know how big of a feat that was for me to cook anything!

The one thing that helped me through was knowing that because my husband was gone, it meant someone else’s husband was home. There were kids who were probably without their parent last year that were with them this year and that was partly because my husband was doing his part.

My advice – especially if it’s just you – is do whatever will make you feel better. If that means surrounding yourself with family, go for it. If it means staying in your PJs all day, crying over sappy movies and eating your weight in chocolate…well, that’s okay too in my book. If you have kids, let them know they get a special treat this year and will get to celebrate Christmas twice. 😉

What do you do to make the holidays more bearable? What advice would you share with a spouse enduring her first set of holidays alone?

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