Halfway through a nearly yearlong deployment to southwest Asia, Missouri National Guard Citizen-Soldiers miss friends, loved-ones and holiday rituals of home. But as a quasi family, they make the best of the situation with games and care packages. Pictured is the 935th Aviation Support Battalion complete with notes of thanks for holiday gifts sent from those they leave behind. (Photo courtesy of 935th Aviation Support Battalion)
By Ann Keyes
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. - Halfway through a nearly yearlong deployment to southwest Asia, Missouri National Guard Citizen-Soldiers miss friends, loved-ones and holiday rituals of home. But as a quasi family, they make the best of the situation.
"We miss family, friends, family traditions, familiar smells and relatives you don't see but once a year," said 1st Sgt. Joseph Dorsey, with Springfield's Headquarters Support Company, 935th Aviation Support Battalion. "Some Soldiers have the misfortune of having to miss their first Christmas as parents of newborn children or children who are just now understanding what the holiday is about, and of course, the excitement of the holidays when you have kids that age."
Dorsey, of Republic, speaks for many of the Soldiers in his charge, serving as a father figure to younger men and women in the battalion - although a father figure who ensures there is fun to be had when long workdays are done. The headquarters group, as well as companies A and B, have already celebrated Christmas many times over, whether playing organized games of dodge ball or sporting funny hats fashioned from supplies found around their temporary home at Camp Buehring, Kuwait.
"At first the time flew by because there was so much to get done and learn," said Dorsey. "Individuals and leaders find their strong points and weaknesses and adjust to them. At present, it seems to have slowed way down. Multiple things play a part in this: we are in our rhythm and it's almost like Groundhog Day; we have hit our halfway point; and the holidays are upon us. We are also thinking of the long days ahead as we ready to go home and work to set our replacement unit up for success."
While deployed, the 935th supports the units of the Missouri National Guard's 35th Combat Aviation Brigade, headquartered in Sedalia. The battalion focuses on aviation maintenance, vehicle maintenance, medical operations, transportation, ammunition, distribution and communication operations, said 935th commander Lt. Col. Roger Bodenschatz, of Jefferson City.
Soldiers with the 35th CAB are making the best of a holiday away from home as well, said Staff Sgt. Robin Martinez, also stationed at Camp Buehring, which Martinez describes as a "small community with familiar faces everywhere."
"Time goes by as quickly or as slowly as you want it to," said Martinez, of Springfield, who previously deployed to Iraq in 2005. "If you stay stagnant time moves like pond water. If you check out local happenings, nearly every week there is something new and something to look forward to. I'm one of the forward-lookers so time has been on my side so far."
Martinez said the holidays in Kuwait have so far included a tree-lighting ceremony, carnival-type games and a gingerbread house-making contest.
Still, Martinez, a mother of two, notes there are things she misses from home.
"I've already missed two rounds of visits from grandparents so family ranks high on missing out," Martinez said. "Kids Christmas school programs, the anticipation that the kids have for the big day, decorating the house, staying up late Christmas eve to stuff stockings and waking up to the hushing sounds from the kids standing in the doorway. And now that my kids are older, we've decided to take the money that we would normally spend on presents and use it toward a family vacation. Our winter traveling tradition is three years young, but always a ton of fun. I will miss that special family time the most."
Dorsey said modern technology provides much relief from the separation deployment brings, what with Skype, FaceTime and social networking a part of everyday life.
"All are doing fine and handling the separation in their own way; some are getting more involved with Morale, Welfare and Recreation trips and USO functions while others are spending more time on Skype with their families," Dorsey said. "Of course, the mission goes on and some are spending more time on work to make the time go by. We are a family over here and take care of each other. That is something that the families back home need to know."
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Soldiers with the Missouri National Guard's 935th Aviation Support Battalion celebrate the holidays at Camp Buehring, Kuwait, including 1st Sgt. Joseph Dorsey, of Republic, and 1st Lt. Brittany Adair, of Buford, Ga. The group returns to southwest Missouri in late spring 2013. (Photo courtesy of 935th Aviation Support Battalion)