They Won’t Be Home for the Holidays

Kieri Karpa, Layout Manager

For some families, the holidays can be a painful reminder of who isn’t with them.

Hershey High School’s senior Lindsey Hunsberger and sophomores Marc Hunsberger and Mackenzie Dehart all have an active duty military parent. They believe the holiday season is hard when one parent is gone, but each student has their own fears, opinions, and coping mechanisms for the absence of a parent.

The official White House Christmas tree, an 18-foot-6-inch Frasier fur from Jefferson, N.C., is trimmed with ornaments decorated by children of military families in the Blue Room of the White House in White House in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 28, 2012, during a preview of the holiday decorations. The theme for the White House Christmas 2012 is Joy to All. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Dehart, whose mother has been active duty for six years, said that the holidays without her mother are lonely.

“It’s like you want them to be there, but they’re not,” Dehart said.

But the hardest part isn’t loneliness. Dehart believes communication difficulties are the worst part of having an active duty military parent. To talk to her mother, who is stationed in Kuwait, Dehart must text a specific number that does not use wifi or data.

Even with the challenges of an eight hour time difference, Dehart said she talks to her mother everyday.

Although life is different when her mother is away, Dehart said the holidays remain mostly the same.

When her mother is away, Dehart still celebrates with both sides of her family.

“When [my mother] comes back, we’re going to celebrate those events that she missed,” Dehart said.

The Hunsberger family has a different approach to the holidays when their father is away.

Lindsey Hunsberger said that her mother tries to make the holidays feel the same, but it can be hard not having her father there.

The holidays and special events are seen as opportunities for the family to get together, so Marc Hunsberger thinks it is weird to celebrate them without his father’s presence.

“There have been holidays and special occasions where my family hasn’t celebrated it because my dad isn’t there,” he said.

In the Hunsberger family, birthdays and special occasions are a big deal. Lindsey Hunsberger said that it’s hard to cope with these significant occasions when her father is not there and she can’t talk to him.

“You wake up and there’s only one parent there when normally there’s two,” Lindsey Hunsberger said. “It’s a weird kind of empty feeling when he’s not there.”

Marc believes that fear creeps in a little more at the holidays.

The fear of his father dying is what he believes is the hardest part of his father being overseas, “…you think you’re going to see them again, but a day after you talk to them, they can be dead and you hear from their bosses,” Hunsberger said.

U.S. Army soldiers wear Santa Claus hats during a Christmas event at Camp Pennsylvania in the Kuwaiti desert Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2002. (AP Photo/Anja Niedringhaus)

Even with the concern that something could go wrong, Lindsey does not believe that is the hardest part of her father being away. She believes that balancing school, a job, and helping more at home is the hardest part of her father being away. Since she is the oldest child in her family, she has to help more with her four year old brother.

Although they have different opinions on the hardest parts of their father being away, there is one thing that Marc and Lindsey agree on: communication with their father can be difficult when he’s overseas. Most of the time, phone calls are either not allowed or too expensive. Instead, their father uses apps, like Skype, to call his family. However difficult it may be, the Hunsbergers are still able to talk to their father almost everyday.

Even though their parents’ absences can be difficult, the Hunsbergers and Dehart are proud of their parents’ contributions to their country’s military.