Holidays away from Sheppard

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Vernon Cunningham
  • U.S. Air Forces Central Command
A homemade Christmas tree that looks like something out of Charlie Brown's comic, physical training gear adorned with a yellow reflective belt, 12-hour shifts, a talking greeting card and a box with brownies sent all the way from Texas. I'm all set to be home for the holidays.

Although I may not be with my wife and son this Christmas, I truly appreciate being able to call my current location a home. My Air Force family is who I will be spending this holiday with, and my deployed base feels as close to a home as we can muster. The Christmas spirit is alive and well.

All of the social gathering areas have a modest amount of ornaments and holiday decorations. Most of the desks and workspaces I see have at least one item representing holiday wishes, or sentiments, that were sent from loved ones awaiting family to return to them in the states. These are adorned across desks to get everyone in the proper mood to share in the spirit.

Along with the environment, there are the people. Admittedly, the main aspect I am going to miss about this Christmas is going to be the opportunity to spend it with my wife, son, mother, sister or anyone else from my family. Having family with me would turn any location into Christmas, even without decorations or presents.

But not having the Cunningham family with me does not mean I do not have family with which to celebrate. Every deployed member that I socialize or work with, share a common bond. We have all dedicated our lives to the service of the United States military. We remain absolute professionals, doing our jobs and sacrificing our personal interests to keep America safe, particularly during the holidays.

Each one of us has a mom, dad, spouse, child, church or friend back home that stoutly supports us and makes sure that we are not forgotten in the hearts of the people we left behind to come here. That connection makes each of us feel like a part of each other's family and we support each other accordingly.

The best part of having this kind of network is that every person that sends their sentiments to a service member at my location also wants to make sure that I am supported. My coworkers, and other nearby offices, all receive packages from churches and loved ones to make sure they are enjoying the holidays to the best of their ability. However, most packages come with instructions to distribute food, snacks, gifts and other goodies to all available service members.

Therefore, when I tell everyone that my wife is sending me brownies for holiday snacks, everyone knows to watch the mail. Enough brownies are coming for the whole team.
All my coworkers take out the personal items and share their goodies with each other. Everyone is welcomed to it and whatever else is in the package such as shavers, toothpaste and chap stick.

We really make sure that we spend the time and resources needed to help each other ease the cost of freedom. I miss my family and my presents are sitting under a tree thousands of miles away. My days are full from sun rise to sun down. It's hot in the day time and cold at night. But, I have the support of my fellow deployees, the network of families, fun spirited decorations and a stocking for St. Nick to drop off a present. It may not be the same, but for now I am home for the holidays.