Holiday season with your military family

Col Karl McGregor

Col Karl McGregor

MARCH AIR RESERVE BASE, CALIF. -- As we rapidly approach Holiday Season 2010, I reflect back a number of years to the holiday seasons when I was single and I would volunteer to fly the missions that would invariably put me on the road over Thanksgiving or Christmas. My intent was to allow my fellow pilots who had families the opportunity to spend those moments at home.

Being honest, though, there was something else I liked about being on the road over the holidays. I enjoyed the feeling of being one of the only aircraft in the system and I liked being a part of a crew that was comprised of mostly single or divorced members, coming together to form a unique holiday family. Together, we would enjoy traditional meals served wherever we happened to be on the magic date, plus a second holiday meal served directly from the aircraft ovens, just to make up for being away from home.

These trips turned into some great memories with my extended military family and I will always treasure them. While many single servicemen and women may choose to spend holidays away as I did, it can be difficult when circumstances create conditions where they must spend the holidays alone. If you find yourself in this position, always remember that you have a military family, too, comprised of your co-workers here at March Air Reserve Base.

I encourage Team March members who live locally and are cooking a Thanksgiving meal at home to forge a new tradition in their households by extending an invitation to your co-workers this year, especially to those who are on orders or may not have family in the area.

As the holiday season nears, members of the community are conscious that the things  they are most thankful for are only possible because of the sacrifices servicemembers make. Therefore, even community members who do not have a direct connection to the military feel compelled to give back this time of year by inviting servicemembers to their family's holiday meals. This is especially true at March because of the exceptionally supportive cities that surround the base. The public affairs office receives calls on a daily basis from community members who would like to host servicemembers in their homes.

For the families who must be apart because of a deployment, there are still ways to maintain a feeling of connection despite the stress of being physically apart. We are social animals and it's crucial for us to reach out to our spouse, children, family and friends during deployment. With all the technology available, this is easier than it's ever been.

There are many businesses and non-profit organizations that administer free programs that help bridge the gap between deployed servicemembers and their families. The USO's United Through Reading program, for example, records servicemembers reading a picture book. After, they mail a DVD and a copy of the book to the child. Also, check with local television stations, radio stations, newspapers and websites, as many of them post photos and holiday messages from servicemembers to their families (and vice versa) for the holidays.

With Black Friday just a few days away, I'd also like to remind Team March members to be cognizant of the stress the holidays can have on family finances. Television ads raise expectations while economic reality can't be ignored. It's easy to get caught up in all the material things we want, but when I think back to my childhood, I remember the laughter, but have a difficult time remembering the presents I received. Remember that the most important gift you can give is time; set some aside and connect!