The Holiday season can be particularly difficult for military personnel and their families who are separated by deployment or simply struggling financially. The stress and hardship of deployment can create an incredibly lonesome holiday setting for both personnel abroad and their families holding the fort at home. In addition, many families who are blessed and able to spend the holiday together can experience hardships with the added financial burden that Christmas brings to many each year.
Christmas will be celebrated on Tuesday, December 25th, 2018.
Christmas has deep roots in our nation’s sense of tradition and celebration. When combined with military efforts, there is a strong presence of strength, unity, and cheer that permeates all American families, unifying both military and non-military families with an awareness of the spirit of giving and hope.
U.S. Troops Serving Overseas This Christmas
Service members serve on all seven continents — there is one service member in Antarctica — and on all the seas. Military personnel serve in more than 170 countries.
Service members deployed around the world during Christmas:
5,200 in Iraq
2,000 in Syria
28,000 in South Korea
60,000 U.S. Central Command area of operations and aboard ships.
710 in Kosovo.
3,100 in Djibouti, on the Horn of Africa
505 in Niger.
34,300 in Germany
8,300 in the United Kingdom
44,500 in Japan.
20,000 National Guardsmen are operating far from their homes in some of the most dangerous areas on Earth.
5,000 National Guardsmen are battling wildfires in California or delivering supplies in Puerto Rico.
Sailors will man their ships from the Persian Gulf to the Gulf of Mexico. Navy officials maintain that roughly a third of the Navy is deployed at any one time.
Air Force missileers and airmen are in the silos, by the planes and in the command centers ensuring the nuclear system is ready if needed.
History of Christmas in the Military
Christmas has long been celebrated in the military, even in times of war. Perhaps the most famous celebration of Christmas in the military is the Christmas Truce of 1914. Starting on Christmas Eve, troops on both the British and German sides began singing Christmas Carols to one another. The sounds of guns and cannons faded along the Western Front in Belgium and were replaced by holiday celebrations, albeit cautious ones, in the trenches. The Germans initiated this temporary “truce” and began with the singing of carols and placement of Christmas trees along the trenches. On Christmas morning, German soldiers emerged unarmed, calling out “Merry Christmas” to the Allied British soldiers in the trenches across no-man’s-land.
This gesture of goodwill between enemies came a mere five months after the outbreak of war in Europe, and is perhaps the last example of the concept of chivalry between enemies in warfare. This notion of goodwill between enemies was never again repeated, as future similar attempts were promptly squashed with threats of discipline from squad leaders. Even a world war could not destroy the Christmas spirit.
Christmas Military Traditions and Charitable Actions
The military has a long-standing reputation for watching out for its own, and providing excellent assistance to the needs of families in a wide variety of variable situations. Military families often band together, particularly when a member is deployed, to form a strong support system that lifts spirits and builds emotional strength in a time of uncertainty. By connecting with squadron friends and their families, military families can experience the warm Christmas spirit and fun-filled holidays, growing various traditions throughout each holiday season.
Military families can benefit greatly from traditions, and this can drastically help in lessening the longing for a family member who is deployed abroad. Ideas for traditions include: a countdown calendar, a neighborhood light tour, Christmas Eve pajamas, cookie parties, ornament decoration, and holiday parades. Even the smallest tradition can provide a family with a valuable pillar of hope and comfort during the holidays.
Charitable organizations are especially prominent during the holiday season, providing valuable support and resources for military families in need. The following are a few fantastic resources for charitable organizations that provide help to military personnel and their families:
Operation Holiday Joy
Established to raise awareness and funds for military and their families during the holiday season, providing food and toys to families in need.
Trees for Troops
Trees for Troops is making the holidays a little bit better for thousands of military families with free Christmas trees delivered to bases throughout the U.S. and abroad. This organization has provided more than 120,000 trees since 2005, donated from contributing tree farms in North America and also from the public.
Let Freedom Ring
Hopes to lessen the holiday burden and stress for military personnel in the Middle East by sending care packages from home.
Provides many facets of assistance, from relief of financial hardships to wounded warrior recovery and appreciation celebrations for military personnel and spouses.
Toys for Tots
New and unwrapped toys are collected in the fall of every year to be distributed to various children in need at Christmastime.
For additional resources, you can contact your base or post Family Support Center, local VFW chapters, and even non-military organizations.