Deployment is an expected part of military life, but enduring those days apart never get easier, especially around key dates of the year. Military families are sharing creative ways to stay connected with a service member during end-of-the-year holidays.
Military spouses, Danielle Knight and Jenny Hyden, have experienced their husbands being deployed at least once during the holidays and have some advice on how they kept these deployments special for both their spouses and themselves.
Set a date for celebrating
If you can’t be with your loved one for the holiday, then plan to honor that holiday on a day that you can be together.
“Let’s say he’s missing Christmas, we’ll dress up in our tacky Christmas sweaters and we’ll cook dinner together and sort of celebrate the holiday before he leaves,” Knight said.
TIP: Observing the holiday can be done before or after the holiday occurs — whichever works best for your schedule.
Find out what makes the holidays special for each of you
Hyden asked her husband what would make the holidays easier for him while he was away from his family — a wife and a 7-week-old daughter. He requested she send pictures for him to decorate around his bunk as well as Christmas lights. This helped him get into the spirit of the holidays, without waking his roommates in the process.
Asking your deployed member what they want is a surefire way to send them a great big box of things that will bring them joy in any environment.
Mail “open when” letters
Unleash the writer within you by composing handwritten letters meant to be opened for special occasions.
“I’ll prewrite a bunch of letters, probably like 25, for different topics like ‘open when you had a great day’ or ‘open when you do something cool and you can’t tell me,'” Knight explained.
By taking the time to write these letters, your loved one will have something throughout their entire deployment to open whenever they wish.
Send a meaningful care package
Nothing is more exciting for a deployed member than receiving a package from home. Both Knight and Hyden agree that the 12 days of Christmas package is a hit. Knight sent her husband a bunch of small gifts, so that he could open one each day for 12 days.
“The first gift was a mini tree with decorations like lights and a star that he put on his nightstand, and he loved it,” said Knight. “It was super fun because he got to have a tree in his room and he wasn’t really missing out on that part of the holiday.”
Keeping the Christmas traditions alive for your military member are key, so don’t forget those homemade Christmas cookies, flannel Christmas pajamas or mini Santa Claus when assembling your care package.
[Check out the 2019 Holiday Shopping Guide for Military Families with creative gift ideas from military-owned businesses.]
Surprise them with a kiss
“For New Year’s, I filled a small box with sparkly confetti and I kissed a piece of paper with lipstick and cut it out, … I also put a Hershey’s kiss in there so he could open that box at midnight for his New Year’s kiss,” said Knight of her husband.
The seemingly small things are usually the ones that make a big difference, so don’t ever think that something is too simple of a gesture — your military member will be grateful for anything.
Video chat/send an email on the day of
Getting to see your loved one’s face on Christmas day when they’ve been gone for weeks or even months is a beautiful feeling. For those families that are able to video chat, take advantage of it. It is especially sweet for when a dad is missing his little girl’s first Christmas as was the case for Hyden.
On Christmas morning gathered around the tree, turn the video chat on and let your loved one feel like they’re right at home. Hyden said that if you aren’t able to video chat on the day of Christmas, then send a message or an email letting your deployed member know you are thinking of them. It also doesn’t hurt to enthusiastically remind them of the holiday celebration you have planned for when they return.
Don’t forget to take care of yourself
During your loved one’s deployment, you will constantly be thinking of them and their well being. It is easy to forget about your own care in the process.
“People will often ask how the deployed member is doing and you feel like you are always worried about them, so a lot of times it can be hard, especially during the holidays, to remember to take care of yourself,” said Hyden. “It’s never a burden to speak up and express how you are feeling, so you can be taken care of, too.”
If you are able to, especially if you have young children, take the time to be with your family during the holidays. While your loved one is deployed, nothing is more important than spending the holidays with other people that love you.Read comments