Many of us have family members who are away from home in military service during these coming holidays, and many of us—who are veterans—have been there and done that.
My first Christmas in military service was in Japan with a wife and baby son. It wasn’t bad, because the ones I was closest to were with me. We were there two years and two Christmases, and during that time we were away from parents and families back home. That was hard, because it was our first separation from childhood relationships.
I had another Christmas in Vietnam, separated from wife and son, and an additional Christmas on Guam, also separated. What happens when we are away? In military service our comrades in arms become our families. We bond and celebrate and appreciate cards and letters from home even more than we normally would. For our troops this Christmas will be celebrated in faraway lands, including combat zones in the Middle East as well as in countries that host American forces—Japan, Germany, Spain, Belgium and others. (Guam is a United States territory, but still very far away.) Americans will also serve on ships in the Navy and Coast Guard, many of them at sea and far from home.
My first Christmas away from home I purchased some small tape recorders. I sent one to my parents and another to my wife’s parents, and we had another ourselves. This gave us the chance to hear the voices of the people close to us, and the tapes we sent through the mail were our point of contact. In Vietnam it was the Military Affiliate Radio System (M.A.R.S) short wave radio that helped us stay in contact. (Senator Barry Goldwater’s ham station relayed many of my calls.) On Guam, there were telephone contacts. Today’s military personnel have more updated ways to stay in contact—Skype, mobile phones and social media.
But remember the military people in the past. In World War II V-mail and regular mail—that had to pass censorship—kept families in contact. In previous wars, it was letters from home and the front lines.
If you have family members or friends who will spend Christmas away from home, remember them with a card, a letter or a phone call. It’ll make their day—yours, too!
WARREN DOMKE is a columnist for the Pleasanton Express.