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Brian Luke Community Blogger, WGRZ-TV

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Families Weather Holidays Without Deployed Loved Ones

By Elaine Wilson
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Dec. 21, 2010 - As she has in years past, Pat Moseley lit the Hanukkah menorah earlier this month, and then the Christmas tree, without her deployed soldier husband.

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Kari Armstrong readies a care package to send to her husband, Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Armstrong, who is deployed in Afghanistan. December 2010, Fort Campbell, Ky. Courtesy photo

(Click photo for screen-resolution image);high-resolution image available.

As a 20-plus-year military spouse, Moseley has grown accustomed to celebrating her family's dual, month-long holiday season without him.

But this year, as she watched the Hanukkah candles flicker and said her prayers in the family's Fort Campbell, Ky.,-area home, she did so not only with her husband's safety in mind, but also her older son's.

Moseley's husband, Sgt. 1st Class Jon Moseley, of the 101st Airborne Division's 4th Brigade, and their son, Army Spc. Chris Moseley, are both deployed in Afghanistan for a year, although to separate locations.

As a seasoned Army wife and mom, Moseley is familiar with the roller-coaster ride of emotions a deployment entails. "I know I'll be a little down, a little depressed; it's hard around the holidays," she said. "But I've learned to reach out to friends, put more effort into the [family readiness group]."

Moseley is one of thousands of family members weathering the holidays without a deployed loved one this year. More than 140,000 U.S. servicemembers are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, along with thousands more to other locations around the world.

Back home, their families are tackling the task of upholding long-standing holiday traditions, or creating new ones, while working to keep spirits high and their deployed loved ones close at hand.

Rather than dwell on past traditions, and the lack of her husband and son to share them, Moseley is determined to create new memories that will sustain her through the long winter days ahead.

Moseley and her younger son, Jon, will celebrate the holidays in a cabin with close friends. She plans to cherish their time together, particularly since Jon, an Army specialist, is set to deploy to Afghanistan in the spring.

"One will be coming back and two more will be there," she said, referring to Jon and her husband, who won't return until the summer.

Although tucked away in the countryside, Moseley will ensure she's able to include her husband and deployed son in the festivities. If they can time it right, they'll open gifts "together" online.

"The Internet is a blessing," she said. "Having a voice connection is so important."

While she misses them when they're away, Moseley said she's proud for the sacrifices her husband and two sons have chosen to make. "I'm so very proud of them, for the choices that they've made and what they've done for me and their country," she said.

Donnie Mock also has shifted his family's traditional holiday plans to avoid the ghosts of Christmas past. Rather than drive to visit family in Ohio, he plans to stay home at Fort Campbell and enjoy a quiet holiday with his three children.

"I figured we'd have the holidays here; do something different, said Mock, whose wife, Army Sgt. Kelly Mock, of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 4th Brigade Combat Team, is deployed in Afghanistan.

Mock, a stay-at-home dad, plans to cook a big dinner for their children: 10-year-old Donnie III, 4-year-old Dayon and 2-year-old Seagurin. The highlight of their day, he said, will be when they talk to Kellie online via Skype. "We're going to call her on Christmas for her time zone and then on Christmas here, so it's like having two holidays," he said.

On their third deployment, Mock also is accustomed to the gamut of emotions that comes with separation, and is understanding when his youngest wakes him up in the middle of the night wondering, "Where's Mommy?" His focus during the holidays, and every other day, he said, is to be his family's rock.

"I want to be there for her and the kids as well as our extended family," he said. "They're also worried. But it helps to have someone standing strong, and I would like to think that's me.

"I keep spirits going, hopes up high, that no harm will come to her or anyone else," he said.

Mock finds comfort in knowing that his wife is serving a greater good, and tries to pass that knowledge on to his children. "I tell them she left for a really good reason," he said. "It helps to grasp the concept of why she left and what it's for; it's a good thing.

"It takes a strong mind and soul to be in the armed forces," he added. "It takes a special kind of person to do the job we do -- spouses and military."

Kari Armstrong, wife of Army Staff Sgt. Joseph Armstrong, of Headquarters and Headquarters Battery, 4th Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, will be drawing on her own reserve of strength this holiday season while her husband is deployed in Afghanistan. This holiday will be her first without her mother, who died in February.

On Christmas, she plans to spend time with her father, who has Alzheimer's disease, and with her Army wife friends. "We do everything together when the holidays come," she said of her friends. "We've formed that typical Army wife, buddy bond."

Armstrong has kept busy since her husband deployed from Fort Campbell in July, the second time in their four years of marriage. "The best way to cope is to stay busy, stay involved with the family readiness group," she said. "It makes it go by faster."

Still, Armstrong wishes her husband, whom she calls the "rock of the family," could be home, "not just because of the holiday, but what it will be like without [my mother]," she said.

As with many military spouses, despite her own challenges, Armstrong offers her husband unwavering support.

"My husband is doing what he loves to do," she said. "I'm here for the ride no matter what he does. He always has a support system back home." Her holiday wish for him, she added, is that he returns home safely.

Moseley said she has one wish for her husband, son and all the deployed troops: "I wish them a peaceful day," she said, "that they can have a moment of peace to enjoy the blessing of Christmas."

Click photo for screen-resolution image Ten-year-old Donnie III, 4-year-old Dayon and 2-year-old Seagurin help prepare dinner. Their father, Donnie Mock, has a big holiday dinner planned to help keep spirits high while his wife, Army Sgt. Kelly Mock, is deployed in Afghanistan. December 2010, Fort Campbell, Ky. Courtesy photo
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