Military spouses cope with loved ones deployed during holidays

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico

Like many military spouses, Kelly Madden celebrated Christmas while her husband was deployed overseas.

“My husband and I have been married for 2 1/2 years, and this is his first deployment,” she said.

Madden’s husband is an airman from Cannon Air Force Base.

Madden and her 14-month-old daughter went to North Carolina to visit family. Her sister flew to Clovis to travel along with Madden.

“The trip was good,” Madden said.

Cannon Spouses Club President Apryl Nenortas has spent two holiday seasons separated from her husband, Maj. Lee Nenortas. He was deployed in 2005 and recovering from a non-combat-related injury in Germany in 2006 while his family was in Turkey.

Nenortas has three children: Alex, 15, Erik, 10, and Andrew, 9.

“It can be frustrating, especially if the children are old enough to know Dad is missing,” she said.

The most challenging part of the holiday deployments for Nenortas is accomplishing the seasonal chores without her husband’s help, she said.

To manage the separation, some families celebrate early, and young children don’t know the difference, she said, while other families stay busy.

Once, Nenortas’ husband filmed a video of himself ahead of time so his family could watch it on Christmas Day. The other year, he spoke to the children on the speaker phone on Christmas Day.

“Usually we get together with other military families,” Nenortas said. “Especially in 2006, when we were in Turkey and too far away to come home, we made family out of the other military families and celebrated Christmas with them.”

New Years Day can also be challenging, Nenortas said, but she keeps the celebration simple and the children aren’t as bothered by their father’s absence. She also takes advantage of church programs to keep the boys busy on that day.

“My advice would be to stay busy, very busy, and take advantage of the programs on base,” Nenortas said of recommendations to military spouses learning to handle a deployment.

Cannon has many free activities for military families and there are even more overseas, she said.

Nenortas said although her family hasn’t used it, Cannon also has a video phone so personnel and their families can see each other live for free anytime. However, she said there’s sometimes a line to use it.

In addition, Nenortas mentioned a money-saving option for families who want to travel for the holidays. If their service member has been deployed overseas for more than 60 consecutive days, the family can take military flights with available space.

Nenortas also advised spouses to get to know their neighbors because those neighbors could become family.