Getting through the lonely holidays

by Annie Valentine Tintle
Contributing writer

Kimberly Farr might seem like a typical Air Force mom, but she and her two daughters won’t be having a typical Christmas. This year, Farr’s husband, Special Agent Daniel Farr, from the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, will be spending the holidays a world away at the tail end of a six-month deployment.  According to “Strengthen-ing Our Military Families” from 2011, more than 2 million troops have been deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan since Sept. 11, 2001. That boils down to a decade of lonely Christmases for many military families and their deployed counterparts.

“The thing I’m dreading the most is Christmas morning and the kids asking about Daddy,” said Farr of her two daughters, ages 7 and 4. “Then again, there’s that motherly instinct that kicks in and says, ‘Hey, I have to be strong and do this just like I have for the last six months.’” But Farr is not without resources. Both her husband’s squadron and the Ramstein Airman & Family Readiness Center Family Support Squadron have been major factors in bringing her family successfully through this deployment period. “We have done everything that the Family Support Squadron has offered us,” Farr said. “We even took a little one-day excursion with them on the Rhine River. They’re constantly doing something for deployed spouses.”

Sgt. David Lohouse, the noncommissioned officer in charge of the Ramstein A&FRC, and his NCO, Tech. Sgt. Jessi Batchelor, run the Family Support Squadron. They work with the families of deployed service members planning activities and offering services, such as transition assistance, personal finance, family life education and more. They also plan monthly activities for families with deployed parents. Dec. 20 is the scheduled date for this year’s Deployed Family Christmas Event. The Ramstein Enlisted Spouses’ Association, or RESA, will be sponsoring the party and providing fun and games for families in attendance. “Last year’s event was great,” Lohouse said. “We gave out gift certificates and gift bags, movies, decorated cookies, had face painting, even Santa was there. It was a full blown Christmas party for deployed families.” Parents attending don’t have to worry about the hassle of taking their small children to the Christmas party because the A&FRC and RESA will be there to assist.  “As they come in, we help them through the lines,” Batchelor said. “If you’re there and you’ve got two children, I’ll ask, ‘Can I carry a tray for you? Can I assist you?’” Lohouse said they’ll have hands available so parents can relax. “They can decompress and socialize with other families,” he said. The team plans to make the party as easy for parents as possible. Farr and her family are looking forward to the event as part of their Christmas schedule. She said it’s important to have a plan and keep things as normal as possible during the holidays. “We are going to be sending Dad a box with his Christmas presents and really just keeping the traditions the same, just to make sure that the girls have consistency,” she said.

The real challenge for families with deployed parents comes on Christmas Day. Farr said she plans to spend her holiday with a girlfriend who also has a deployed spouse. She said staying strong for the children means being prepared.

“We will Skype with Dad and make every effort possible,” Farr said. “His Internet hasn’t been great, but we’ll do our best.” Lohouse was deployed last December and he remembers Christmas from the other side of things. Thanks to technology, he was an active participant with his wife and four small children on Christmas morning. “With Skype it’s almost like you’re there,” Lohouse said. “We set up the computer in the living room, the kids come down the stairs, they see the presents, they run in and I can see it all and they see me. “They’re opening up the presents and running up to the computer, ‘Look what I got Daddy! Look what Santa got me,’” Lohouse continued. “It was really, really cool. Other than being physically there, I was there and they were happy.” Being away from extended family can be hard, and during a deployment it’s especially difficult. Farr said her advice to parents preparing for the holidays is simple. “Give yourself grace. Know that the laundry might not get done or the house might not get clean like you would every other day,” she said. “Just spend time with your kids because they really need the parent that’s present to actually be present for them, especially at Christmas time.”

To take part in any of the deployed family events, call the A&FRC at 480-5100/5900 or 06371-47-5100/5900.