Two years ago I couldn't wait to start decorating for Christmas, I think we started in September that year…first listening to holiday music, then slowly decorating.
You see, two years ago my husband was in Iraq.
It was his third 12 month deployment but the first since we had our children which made it even more difficult than the previous times. We knew he'd be home sometime around Christmas-whether it would be before or after was up in the air, but for me and our three boys (who were 4, 3, and 4 months at the time) Christmas would be the end of a pretty hard year.
He left three days after our oldest turned 4 and only two weeks after we found out we were pregnant with our third child. When he returned for his two weeks of Rest and Relaxation leave our third son was two days old. He was home for two weeks and then back to Iraq. I try not to dwell on what he missed-that does good for no one-but it's hard to avoid the glaring truth of Daddy on a laptop screen at our son's 3rd birthday party…I won't break your heart by detailing how the internet connection at his base in Iraq failed that day and he missed the cake and presents.
He ended up getting home the week before Christmas. We waited with hundreds of families in a large open area adjacent to an airfield. It was cold but no one seemed to mind. Children colored banners of red, white and blue while we all waited with anticipation.
Then, in the distance, an airplane landed.
Our soldiers were home.
Veterans and volunteers stood at attention with their flags as the troops disembarked and got into formation.They marched by us into the building-I held my boys up on my shoulders as best I could so they could try and see their Daddy. The families followed the soldiers into the building where a (thankfully) brief speech was given by the commander.
He released the soldiers to find their families. In the sea of people my husband couldn't find us, while trying to keep an eye on my boys and the baby in the stroller I looked and looked…finally I climbed on a table and searched for that face I had only seen on a computer screen for months.
Our eyes locked and he made his way through the crowd to find us. The older boys nearly knocked him down clamouring for hugs. He saw his four month old son for the first time since he was 2 weeks old. In that moment I felt like 500 pounds lifted from my shoulders.
We were whole again.
Nothing can make up for the time we lost together that year…nothing can replace the holidays and birthdays missed. But luckily for us there are some fabulous organizations out there that understand the challenges that military families face and are there to help.
Walmart’s “Holiday Salute to Military Families” initiative aims to honor and support our service members and veterans who keep our country safe, as well as the military families who act as our heroes at home. The “Holiday Salute to Military Families” hopes to ease these burdens with $2 million in grants for toys, meals and lodging assistance to those military families with the greatest need of support this year. The donation will also help hundreds of active duty service members come home for the holidays to be reunited with their loved ones.
In addition to the work made possible thanks to Walmart’s grant, Operation Homefront and Fisher House are also calling for a nationwide salute by all Americans. If you are looking for ways to give to the military this holiday season fisherhouse.org/Walmart and operationhomefront.net/Walmart are good places to start.
Join in our Holiday Salute to Military Families this season by sharing this post on Facebook and tagging a military member you're proud to have in your life.