By Derek GeanNovember 26, 2008
By Derek Gean
FORT LEONARD WOOD - For Army families, the holiday season can be difficult to navigate through. Frequent moves, deployments and distance from extended family can make it hard to celebrate, but those "difficulties" have only served to strengthen the bonds of family and community for many Fort Leonard Wood families.
"The holidays can be a challenge for Army families," said Megan Klobusnik, a Fort Leonard Wood Army spouse.
"I come from a large family and holidays are very important, you have to learn to cope," she said.
Klobusnik and her husband, Staff Sgt. Edward Klobusnik, are coping by celebrating Thanksgiving with their "Army family." The Klobusniks and around 11 other Fort Leonard Wood families, who were in Germany, celebrated a traditional Thanksgiving together at a local community center, Sunday.
"We celebrated Thanksgiving with our 'Army family,'" Klobusnik said.
Since Liz Potskowski "married into" the Army, building relationships with other military families has become a way of coping with being away from home.
"I am an only child, and they (her parents) want me home, but it creates hardship and stress. It's hard to plan ahead because you don't know if you are going to be able to go," Potskowski said.
For Sara Carvella, an Army wife for around seven years, uncertainty is a big issue that plays into how her family celebrates the holidays. When her husband is home, they usually celebrate wherever they are, but if he's deployed it's easier for her to celebrate with extended family.
"The holidays are different every year," Carvella said. "Sometimes our (Army spouses) husbands are not here. There have been Christmases where I did not put up a tree because I didn't know if I would be home."
When Carvella's husband is home, it's often logistically too difficult to celebrate with their extended families.
"My husband's schedule doesn't allow for him to take enough time (leave) to make it worth going home, the distance is too far," she said.
"For those of us 'married to the military,' home is where the Army sends us," said Army spouse Amy Migliara. "Over the last decade, we've become very creative in planning our festive holidays among our military surroundings."
Despite sometimes being far from home, all the spouses agreed that one of the most important things they can do for their families is to keep long-standing and new traditions going - no matter where they are.
"We try to incorporate the same traditions, like the same foods," said Sonja Bruce, a 19-year Army wife.
"I have a sugar cookie recipe that my mom made with me, and her mom with her," Bruce continued. "It's all in carrying on the same traditions; like the way we hang the stockings."
Carvella said she received a taste of home once when her family spent a holiday with a friend. Her friend's mother, called Carvella's mother, to get a family recipe for one of Carvella's favorite dishes. Carvella said that kind gesture helped comfort her while she was away from home.
"You just make family with whoever you are with," Bruce said. "We just take care of each other . . . it's the key to the whole thing. You learn to take care of each other."
Potskowski agreed. She recommends that families have potlucks where each attendee brings their favorite holiday dish.
"Eating your favorite dishes or having your favorite ornament can make it the best," she said.
Teddy Hubbs, an Army wife of 21 years, agreed that tradition helps make being away from family easier. She said following Thanksgiving, one family tradition she likes to keep alive is lighting advent candles.
"Attitude is everything," Carvella said. "If you go into the holiday depressed that you can't go home, you are going to stay depressed. If you make the best of it, it's going to be pretty good."