I recently spoke to a friend about our upcoming deployment right before the holidays.
She had a brilliant idea: Celebrate everything Chris is going to miss — birthdays, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, etc. —before he deploys.
“Have Turkey and pumpkin pie one day, then Kylee’s birthday cake the following day.”
How brilliant is this? Not once have I actually thought about celebrating missed holidays during the 20 years we have been together and a few deployments under our belt.
Of course, I was very excited about this, and I want to share it with other military spouses.
So, I asked a few military spouses to share their ideas during a holiday deployment, and, hopefully, we can pass along the holiday spirit from one military spouse to another.
Don’t let traditions slip
The holidays aren’t the same when your significant other isn’t home. I tend to decorate less, bake less and, overall, do less. Sometimes we let our holiday traditions slip because our spirit is stuck on deployment survival. Whether you have children or not, don’t be Mr. Scrooge and settle with McDonald’s.
“I really try to focus on making it as special as I can for my girls and I. I want to create amazing memories for them to remember. Just because daddy can’t be here with us doesn’t mean it can’t be special,” said Whitney, who is married to a Special Forces officer. “We make pizzelles, which I have been baking since I was a little girl, pick out our own Christmas tree and drive around town looking at Christmas lights.”
And, "we continue our Christmas baking and our traditional Christmas dinner. It’s important to keep traditions alive despite daddy’s absence.”
I also recommend not skipping the holiday card, and instead create a fun twist to the traditional card.
Have fun with it, and spread laughter to your family and friends when they open this gem.
And, guess what? Our daddy board showed up to a pumpkin patch and a Thanksgiving feast, and he was there on Christmas morning and rang in the New Year with us.
Pen a handwritten note and take pictures
“I wrote handwritten letters and emailed every day. Raylee (our 5-year-old munchkin) and I snapped daily pictures,” said Michelle Tangi, who is married to a Navy petty officer first class.
“Every day is an adventure without him, and pictures are windows into our holiday cheer even when we are apart,” she added. "These small gestures help Raymond to know we are enjoying the season.”
Kristen Zeegers said, “My family would pull up a picture of my husband on our phone when we took pictures. I have a picture of me smiling with him on my phone while I was in [labor and delivery] with preeclampsia! It made him feel a part of it all, and it’s special to look back on.”
Make time and connect
“Being able to have regular contact with FaceTime or a call brings normalcy, which makes us feel better connected,” said Elissa Bryan, a military spouse and photographer currently stationed in Seoul, South Korea. “The exchanging of care packages also goes a long way for us to feel like the other person is there. Usually, it’s silly small things. Just a reminder that there is someone on the other side of the world that loves you.”
Kristin Harder, who is married to Army Sgt. 1st Class Eric Harder, says she plans to spend the holidays with family. She echoes the importance of being around grandparents, aunts and cousins to continue to make great memories and holiday traditions.
“Always make sure to include your kids in conversations and make sure that each get a chance to talk with the deployed parent one-on-one," adds Whitney, whose husband is a Special Forces officer. "I know for my kids, it is always special when they get to have the phone and talk with daddy and tell him all about their day.”
Maria Cordova is an Army wife, Navy brat, mom of two beautiful girls, member of Team Red, White and Blue, and author of “Unsung Heroes” and “The ABCs of the Army,” two children’s books available at Amazon.com. She’s online at MariaCordova.com.