What a difference a year can make!

  • Published
  • By Lt. Col. Sean Williams
  • 49th Contracting Squadron commander
I was sitting at home this past weekend with my family, enjoying some eggnog and decorating our house for the upcoming holiday season. As I looked through boxes for extension cords and lights to decorate the outside of my house, my daughter was pulling out the ornaments for the tree inside. Later that night, my wife, children, and I decorated our family Christmas tree. We were spending time together as a family enjoying the memories attached to those special ornaments either hand made by our children or collected from all our past duty stations. It is a memory that I will cherish for the rest of my life.

Last year at this time, I was deployed to Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan. I left Holloman Oct. 5, 2011, and missed all of the holidays last season. The Kandahar dining facility had a Thanksgiving meal, but it was just a meal. I missed sitting at the table with my wife and three children discussing our busy lives and talking about what presents where hoped for under the Christmas tree. I especially missed my wife's cornbread stuffing.

My officemates and I tried to get in the Christmas spirit by decorating our office, but it just wasn't the same without our loved ones near. We all received packages from home, which helped to ease our gloomy dispositions, but would have rather just been at home. The office was minimally manned on Christmas Day, but no one wanted to be in their respective rooms staring at the wall. Almost all of my officemates showed up at work to share some Christmas spirit and be around familiar faces.

New Year's Eve, Valentine's Day, my oldest son's 18th birthday, my daughter's Christmas concert, my middle son's honors awards ceremony, my 44th birthday, and my 21st wedding anniversary are just a few of the momentous occasions that passed by during my deployment. Thankfully, I made it home the night before my oldest son's high school graduation. Some of these come every year, but some are gone forever and I will never be able to have them as a memory.

I just spent Thanksgiving week with my wife and children and we had a great time eating, shopping, visiting old friends, and just being together as a family. I am looking forward to the upcoming Christmas and New Year holidays because my oldest son, now a freshman at the University of New Mexico, and my middle son, a sophomore at New Mexico Military Institute, will both be coming home for winter break. I am taking some extended leave to enjoy just being at home with my family.

The military way of life is not always easy. This was my third deployment that took me away during the holiday season. Our job takes us away from home for extended periods of time. However, we all volunteer and salute smartly when deployments come. So as we go into the holiday season, take some well-deserved leave and spend it with your loved ones. Make sure those relationships with your spouse and children are strong so they can withstand the pressure of a long deployment. Most importantly, never forget our brethren standing guard around the globe, thousands of miles from family, and missing the holiday season back at home.

So pour yourself a glass of eggnog, get out the Christmas tree and ornaments, unravel the tangle of lights, and enjoy your family and loved ones. Make some great memories that will carry you through those tough times on long deployments that are sure to come to all military members.