Don’t Forget Those Who Won’t Be Home for the Holidays

The holiday season is upon us, whether we’re ready or not. From the commercials advertising family gatherings to radio stations and stores playing sentimental songs, the media tells us that we are embarking on “the most wonderful” time of the year.

For many, the holidays are just that, a time to gather with family and friends. But we can’t forget that there are those loved ones who can’t be home for the holidays; those men and women who are part of the military and are serving our country in other parts of the world.

I know about this first-hand, as my husband just last week returned home after a one-year deployment to Afghanistan with the Ohio National Guard. His tour of duty began in December 2011, about two weeks before Christmas. While that made for a very different holiday season for our family, it also made me appreciate the generosity of friends and relatives who helped us get through that time.  And surprisingly, while we missed our soldier very much, we still found ways to have some fun.

As you start preparing for the festivities of the next six weeks, please keep in mind any friends, relatives or co-workers you know who are part of a military family and will have someone missing from the celebrations this year. Here are some simple suggestions of things you can do to make their holiday season a little brighter:

  • Include the soldier’s family in any of your holiday traditions. It could be an invitation to dinner at your house, or helping trim the tree or baking cookies.  It doesn’t have to be anything major, but just something that lets them know you are thinking about them. 
  • Drop by or call to see how everyone is doing and if they need anything.  Maybe they need assistance putting up the outside decorations (or getting them out of the basement);or maybe they just need someone to talk to and vent for a few minutes.  You’d be surprised how good it makes you feel to know that others are thinking of you and are there if you need them.
  • Send a holiday greeting to the deployed soldier. It could be a package with snacks, homemade cookies or a small gift.  Or send a holiday card (snail mail or electronic) with a family photo.  Neighbors and friends could send photos of the outside decorations, or from a program, event or tradition that the soldier participates in when he/she is home.  My husband always enjoyed getting email pictures of our nieces and nephews so he could keep up with what was going on, and I think it also gave him a sense of “normalcy” that things were “as usual” back home.

Finally, don’t be offended if your offer of assistance or invitation isn’t always accepted. It doesn’t mean the offer isn’t appreciated, but sometimes you need to be alone, or do things by yourself. Just make sure the invitation is open-ended, because trust me there will be a time when your friend or co-worker will want, and need, your friendship.

What ideas do you have for sharing the holidays with the family of a deployed soldier? I’d love to hear them.