By Sharna Johnson: CNJ staff writer
Instead of tinsel and lights, their homes are filled with brown cardboard boxes. And rather than neatly folded, brightly colored wrapping paper, the rustle of packing paper being swathed around fragile items echoes through empty rooms.
Military families are no strangers to moving, but many at Cannon Air Force Base this year are dealing with the added challenge of relocating during the holidays.
Between 40 and 50 Cannon personnel are moving over the holidays due to reassignment, Cannon officials said.
Those members account for around 7 percent of 700 who are scheduled to leave in coming months, Cannon spokesman Staff Sgt. Richard Williams said.
In October, Air Force Special Operations took command of Cannon, and many of those moving are being relocated as part of the transition to the new mission, Williams said.
“Moving is hard no matter what time of year it is,” he said.
“Being military it’s hard enough because you’re away from your family anyway during the holidays and moving makes it even more difficult… but it’s exciting as well because you’re going to a new place.”
Linsey Reed and her fiancé are headed to Luke Air Force Base in Phoenix, Ariz., in mid-January, Reed said even though Christmas is right around the corner, they have been focused on selling extra furniture and other items to lighten their load.
“We’ve got a month, and we’ve got Christmas to get out of the way. It’s just crazy,” she said.
Reed said they plan to spend the holidays with her family in Clovis and are keeping things simple on their first Christmas together.
“We’re just buying for each other but nothing real big. We are trying to get rid of the big stuff,” she said. “It’s not too bad. It’s good that we get to at least spend Christmas with family. It does bring a lot of stress (though). I’m preparing myself (for life as a military wife).”
Ashley Szymanski said though she and her husband are not due to arrive at Luke until early February, they have had to make adjustments to their holiday plans.
They plan to visit family in Dallas for their fourth Christmas together, she said, “so we don’t have to be in the box-strewn house.”
But the Szymanski family is holding on to some traditions. “We went and got a little tiny tree so we could feel a little of the Christmas spirit,” she said.
Cassandra Martin said her family is working to establish some traditions for their 1-year-old son in the midst of all the chaos of moving.
Staying with a friend in Clovis while they transition, Martin said they have had to forgo a lot of holiday decorations and revelry.
“We usually put lights up around the house, but we just have an itty-bitty tree this year,” she said, explaining her son sits and stares at the lights and gets to pick a candy cane from the tree each night.
She said she’s thankful her son is too young to really remember.
Szymanski said she and her husband were thankful to learn their move would take place after the holidays.
“Our hearts go out to (Cannon families moving at Christmas) because it is so rough,” she said.