Remembering our troops this holiday season

MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- (Editor's note: The mention of the nonprofit organizations, Operation We Are Here, American Legion and American Red Cross, does not constitute endorsement or affiliation by Moody Air Force Base or the U.S. Air Force.)

Every service member knows they can be deployed at any time, even during the holidays. While many of us are fortunate to be able to stay home, we need to remember those who aren't able to spend time with their friends and family.

This year, the Air Combat Command has more than 8,500 Airmen deployed across the globe maintaining freedom and providing support to various missions. At Moody Air Force Base, Ga., approximately 1,100 Airmen are deployed during this holiday season.

Although I have never deployed myself, while I was growing up, my dad deployed many times and missed more holidays than I can count.  But the ones that burned into my memories are Christmas and Thanksgiving.

It was tough for me, especially on Christmas, because I love spending time with my family. My dad being gone on my favorite holiday was hard to get over, but my mom made it as special as possible.

She went above and beyond for the holidays by letting us decorate the house and invite friends over to make my siblings and me happy and to keep us busy. She volunteered us for community events and encouraged good times while he was gone.

Even though I was sad when he was away, I knew what he did was important and he made a difference being a part of something bigger than himself.

Now that I wear the uniform, I completely understand why he was gone and the importance behind it. One of our core values as Airmen is to put service before self. He sacrificed his time with us to help his country.

"Obviously you would prefer to be with your family, but know that you are serving your country and fulfilling the needs of what the Air Force is asking you to do," said retired U.S. Air Force Maj. Martin Sisson, aircraft maintenance officer who deployed 12 times throughout his 22-year career.

The Airmen don't have the familiarity of home, but they do have their Air Force family to help ease the separation.

Sisson reminisced about spending time with his unit at a Christmas party, during which they roasted a pig. He said it's a unique experience because it's different than any other deployment. The unit is tighter and you build closer relationships because of the fact that you're there for the holidays and you're facing sacrifices together.

Though for most Airmen, deployments can help build relationships, for some it's extremely difficult being deployed during the holidays. The days are long and with no family to see at the end of the day, it can get lonely. It's very easy for them to get depressed, angry and pessimistic.

Every now and then these Airmen need a reminder that what they do is important and they do it for a reason. In order to let them know we are thinking of them there are multiple resources and programs including Operation We Are Here, the American Legion and the American Red Cross.

My family would send care packages to my dad filled with his favorite candy, jerky, magazines and books, giving him the familiarity of home during the holidays

As the season of giving begins and the excitement of spending time with the people we love starts to grow, think of those whom are not able to and are sacrificing their time with family and friends for our right to do just that.