The holidays can be a joyous occasion for many; filled with family, friends and festivities. But for some military families, it can be challenging to conjure up feelings of good cheer. It may be the very first holiday spent away from extended family or the first one away from a beloved duty station with lots of close friends. Or a very big part of the family may only be able to join in on a special tradition by Skype… if it is working and there are no communication black outs that day. Military families have learned to celebrate holidays when they are able, not necessarily on the day designated on a calendar. We have learned to adapt to new surroundings and make them home. And we have learned to make the best out of whatever hand we are dealt at the moment.
It is always good to take a step back and evaluate the many, many things we can be thankful for. That doesn’t mean that we can’t feel the loss of a service member deployed, or be homesick for long-time holiday traditions that are now hundreds of miles (and expensive airfare) away. But it can put things into a healthy perspective for us. If we can hold onto the things we CAN be thankful for… perhaps that will give us strength to get through the tough stuff.
5 Things I’m Thankful For as a Military Spouse
5) New Traditions
Sure, we all grew up with traditions that will always hold a special place in our hearts. But many of us, after moving all over the world and meeting lots of different people, have adopted traditions that we may never have even known about had it not been for military life. Traditions may only last a few years, until you move to a new duty station. Are you living in another country this year? How exciting to adopt a tradition from another culture! Every year at Christmas, you will be reminded of the many different places your family has lived. And besides, spending quality family time by the fire listening to your drunk Uncle tell the story of how he got stuck down the chimney on Christmas Eve, for the third time, back in 1980… might be a tradition that is gladly replaced with something a little more, well, anything.
4) Travel Opportunities
Military families often spend every single holiday or vacation traveling to see family members. Those family relationships are very importing, but let’s face it. It can be exhausting to travel hundreds or thousands of miles, and try to fit in quality time with all of the people who want to visit with you. Sometimes, it is nice to take a “local” vacation with just the immediate family. This year, we live way too far from family to drive and see everyone, but our family is traveling for Christmas… to a beach on the West Coast. We will be spending our Christmas Day staring out at the Pacific Ocean, and making sand castles instead of snowballs. We will miss having extended family around us, but there is something to be said about actually using your Christmas Break to recharge and reconnect with the people who you actually live with day in and day out. This year, we will not need a “vacation” from our “vacation”!
3) Tasting Different Foods
How I ever survived life without the wonderful cuisine called, lumpia… I will never know. But many years ago a Marine and his wife brought over some incredible dishes from The Philippines (where she is from), and I was instantly hooked! Military families know how to throw a great potluck, and every single time… we end up tasting a dish that we just know we will be in love with forever. And since many of our military friends are from, or have lived, all over the country and world… they always have something new to bring to the table. Just this week, my friend from Ireland brought over her Irish bread and butter to a party. Yum! And many a Yankee have fallen in love with my husband’s cream potatoes during a holiday meal… even if they have a hard time admitting in public that they ate 3 helpings of a dish filled with mayonnaise. None of our Yankee friends have conceded on the “stuffing verses dressing” debate though. Gah. Who wants to eat something that has spent the day marinating in a turkey cavity and contains oysters?!
2) Friends Who Become Family
No one can understand what a military family is going through… better than a military family. Period. As a result of this understanding, our military friends often 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. If a spouse of a deployed service member suddenly starts sobbing because you serve jellied cranberry sauce because she just sent her husband a can, but it got lost in the mail and now he won’t have any to eat with his MRE for Thanksgiving… no one is going to think twice about it. That is one of the biggest blessings of military life, in my opinion… our military family. We cherish them all, and love that it grows with every single PCS move.
1) To Be in the Company of Heroes
As a part of the military family, we are in the company of heroes every single day of our lives. We grocery shop with them, we bank with them, and we dine with them. They are our neighbors, friends and colleagues. 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. When you are around heroes every single day, it inspires you to accomplish, give, and contribute more. I hold my husband, and his dedication to his country, in the highest regard. And I am eternally thankful to have been a part of his journey as one of our Nation’s heroes for the past 13 years.
This year… as we all gather around whatever table, in whatever part of the world, with whatever family is available, eating whatever food the potluck produces… I hope that we can all remember the wonderful blessings that come along with being a member of a military family. You may be celebrating with snow, or sand. You may be serving stuffing, or dressing. You may have your hero at your table, or you may be hoping to get a treasured phone call. No matter what the circumstances, take the time to be thankful, lean on each other, and embrace the meaning of the holiday.