The opinions expressed in this column are the views of the author.
I am someone who eagerly anticipates the holiday season all year long. The lights, the trees, the parties, the gifts—I love it all.
As a military family, our holiday rituals look a little different. We are often stationed far from loved ones, and the cost and stress of holiday travel are enough to forego the large family gatherings that so many are accustomed to. I used to get a little depressed when my entire family would Facetime us on Christmas Day. The phone would get passed around from grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins, nieces, and nephews—all eager to wish us a Merry Christmas from afar.
As happy as I was to see them, I would hang up the call with a deep sense of “FOMO.” However, over the years (22 of them, to be exact), I have learned to embrace and enjoy the holidays as a family of four.
One thing I love about staying home for Christmas is that our family has been able to create our own unique Christmas traditions. One of my favorite traditions is cinnamon rolls, topped with sausage gravy on Christmas morning. I heard of this strange concoction on a morning radio show many years ago and had to try it. The sweet cinnamon roll paired with the savory sausage gravy makes such a great sweet and salty pairing! (Don’t knock it till you try it!)
Another thing I love about spending Christmas at home is that there is no pressure to be anywhere. When we used to make the holiday travel back to my hometown, there would be obligatory church services, lunches, dinners, and always a “not so quick” stop at my parent’s friend’s house (because they wanted to show off the grandkids)—it’s truly exhausting. There is something really peaceful about spending a quiet day together as just our little family of four.
This holiday season, our family is spending half of it in a hotel room and the other half PCSing across the country from California to North Carolina. This is not the holiday season I imagined, but these are the cards the Marine Corps has dealt us this year. I bought a miniature Christmas tree and set it up in our hotel room to bring a little “holiday cheer,” and even our Elf on the Shelf showed up in our room to surprise us! We have made the best of a not-so-ideal situation.
While the holidays are a joyous and magical time for most, this is not always the case for all. Many veterans, service members, and their families struggle during this season. Many in the military community deal with homesickness, loneliness, financial stress, and isolation. For those suffering from post-traumatic stress, this time of year can be particularly triggering based on past experiences. If you know someone who you think may be struggling, please reach out to them. A short phone call goes a long way! If you are someone who is having a difficult time, please do not be afraid to ask for help. You are not alone, and there is plenty of help available.
If you, or someone you know, is in search of support this holiday season, please click here to access support resources.