Holidays spent far away
December 20, 2012
As the holiday season approaches, families across the world will celebrate in many different ways. For the soldiers of the 316th Sustainment Command (Expeditionary), an Army Reserve unit from Pittsburgh, and the rest of the U.S. Army currently deployed overseas, these experiences will have to be shared over the phone, on Skype or through email.
There will be twice as much catching up to do for the family of 316th Chief of Staff Col. David L. Brown Sr. and his daughter Capt. Tanja Duester, with the 96th Aviation Support Battalion, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division, both currently deployed Pittsburgh natives. There are many Christmas traditions that they and their families will miss and they both have different thoughts on what it means to be deployed together during the holiday season.
Being deployed at the same time as one of his children means something special to Brown. "I think it's really great! It's a truly historical moment for our family," he exclaimed.
His daughter found that being deployed together actually made communication easier. "It is actually easier to stay in touch. My last deployment the conversations were often short, but the time difference is not an issue anymore," said Duester. "I think being deployed together got us closer."
They both agree family and holiday traditions such as food and good times will be missed the most. "We have a family gathering and I play Santa for the grandkids, although this year my son Lamont or son-in-law Ali or Melvin may have to step in for me," said Brown. "There's also lots of great cooking taken care of by my wife Beretta. I'm really going to miss the ham, potato salad, turnip greens and of course my favorite dessert, sweet potato pie!"
Duester agreed saying, "Definitely the silliness and the food will be missed. My families are hilarious, so that is what I'll miss the most." With the food coming in a close second, "In early December my dad and his wife Beretta have a pre-Christmas party for the family. There's lots of great food there like mac and cheese, greens, linguini salad and my dad even makes a seafood boil."
Many Christmas holidays are spent in Germany with her mother's family. "Since I am from German heritage on the 24th we decorate the Christmas trees and in the evening open our presents. We have Gluehwein [mulled wine], my mother and aunt make dinner and after that we all go to midnight church. On the 25th there is a big feast in at my uncle's restaurant of over 30 people, that includes the extended family as well."
During the holidays, some deployed soldiers get right into the holiday spirit while others need some holiday cheer thrust upon them. Many find this time of year hard and miss home and their families a little more. "During deployments I have a hard time feeling the Christmas spirit," explained Duester, who is currently deployed to Bagram Air Field, Afghanistan. "Usually, I feel it when I talk to family at home or the moment I open a care package but most days often turn into a blur, which is good when you are here because it makes the time go by faster. This is my third Christmas not at home and I usually don't realize it until the next Christmas that I am home for."
To her father, this deployment is a way of saying goodbye to the Army Reserve after one last act of selfless service. "I think it's a great opportunity to support the war efforts prior to retiring from the military after serving for 38 years." said Brown, who is currently deployed to Camp Arifjan, Kuwait.
Brown and Duester both miss their families and would like to wish them a great holiday season.
"I miss my family very much," said Brown. "I especially miss my wife who continues to be strong and very supportive of me, the deployment and my military career."
Duester would just like to say, "I love you guys and celebrate! Have some of Beretta's delicious mac and cheese for me! Hab Euch lieb und feiert gut. Macht euch bitte keine Sorgen um mich! (Love you guys and party! Please don't worry about me!)"