The holiday season is suddenly upon us. Tree lots are full, Christmas candies are out in full force and the Black Friday sales are taunting us at every turn.
While Thanksgiving is prime season to give thanks for all of our many blessings surrounded by friends and family, I encourage you to take a moment to think of the troops and veterans — whether deployed, on call or unable to travel for other reasons — that are not gathering around a full table and breaking bread with loved ones. It isn’t about providing supplementary meals or opportunities, just being thankful for service — thankful that there are those willing to stand up for the freedoms of many, willing to put their lives on the line and willing to say, “Send me,” when others shrink away.
While it may be a little late to organize a card drive or send care packages to arrive for Thanksgiving, the winter holidays are just around the corner. There are going to be thousands of troops deployed through the New Year, many missing more than just the holidays themselves but the traditions, school performances and other events that quickly fill our calendars.
A simple “thank you” and a handshake are often thought of as the only way to show gratitude. But here are a few options that are a bit more personalized and may even be more valuable (no offense to your handshake):
• Offer to take family photos. Offer to round up Mom and the little ones and help take Christmas card photos or photos to send with the whole family. While Mom (or Dad) probably take and share plenty of photos of the kiddos, it can be difficult to get a good shot of the group without any other hands available. It’s a small gesture, but having a current family photo is something tangible for soldiers to hold on to when those video chats sign off.
• Give Mom a break. The stress of the holiday season is difficult for even the most zen among us to avoid. Whether it is traveling, hosting or preparing for the hustle and bustle of themed events, the chaos that ensues is more than that tin of chocolate chip cookies can handle. Offer to take the kiddos to the park or take an extra morning drop-off for the carpool line for her to get to a yoga class or have a little personal time. Again, it doesn’t require much, but like the old adage says, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.” (This also applies to dads, obviously.)
• Record the school play, caroling, etc. Have photos or video from the school events or another fun memory from the year or the season? Share the video and photos (not on Facebook, please!) as another way to share the memories that have happened during the deployment. Even for those who have just welcomed home loved ones, catching up on all of the little things, especially when shared excitedly via a little one, can be confusing. Photos and videos help give overwhelmed soldiers a point of reference and can even help remind us of the stories we want to share.
Hewlett, a military spouse and mom of one, lives with her family in Richmond Hill.