Local News

Service Separates Families Over Holidays

Posted December 25, 2007

— Thousands of soldiers and their families, including many in North Carolina, celebrated the holidays while their loved ones were thousands of miles away.

Frank Brown's wife Sheila was stationed in southwest Asia with the Air Force over this Christmas. Frank Brown had a hard time getting their son Cameron sitting down to tell his mother that he loved her over the phone, but the boy told her all about his new toys before Sheila Brown had to hang up.

"I think she wanted to cut it short before it got too emotional," Frank Brown said.

The military husband said he explains to Cameron that his mother is taking care of important responsibilities when she is away from them.

"We tell him mom has some important work in the desert where a lot of people need her help. And I think for the most part he understands," Frank Brown said.

Still, missing out on moments with his wife makes the Christmas season hard for him, Frank Brown said.

"I went Christmas shopping the other day, and I said, 'Mom, I feel sad. I see people in the mall, and they are holding hands,'" he said.

Service members and their families got a little cheer and help on Christmas Day at Raleigh-Durham International Airport, thanks to the United Service Organization. The USO room at the airport offered food, welcome and even gifts under the tree for traveling military members and their relatives.

OVer the holidays, USO volunteers said they served more than 100 service members a day.

Stacy Kawaga said the USO's help was extremely welcome when she and her 2-year-old son Takashi were stranded in RDU for the night on a trek to visit family in Boston. Kawaga's husband is deployed to Iraq.

"I missed my flight and was on an airline that did not have a bunch of options," Kawaga said. Staying in a hotel room was cost prohibitive, because "Army salaries are not all that much, you know," she said.

The offer from a USO volunteer was unexpected: "On behalf of the Red Cross and the USO, we will take you to a hotel tonight."

Marine Cpl. Craig Gregory, his wife and dog stopped by the USO center just to give their thanks to the volunteers. Gregory said this was his first Christmas home in three years; for the past two, he was "pretty much in the middle of Iraq."

"It (the USO center) is fantastic. I love it," Gregory said.

Syreeta Dowdy commiserates with the feelings of soldiers and loved ones separated over the holidays. Her Navy husband, Lt. O.J. Dowdy, has spent most of their marriage deployed overseas, most recently to Iraq.

"I was a little overwhelmed, a little upset," Syreeta Dowdy said.

This Christmas, though, delivered an unexpected gift to Syreeta Dowdy's doorstep: her husband, who said a change in his orders let him be home for the holiday.

"I try to cherish every special event or every time that I get with my wife," Lt. O.J. Dowdy said.

He added that even in the midst of the celebration with his family, he was reminded of those soldiers who did not get the unexpected surprise that he did.

"It is special for me to be home, but then, too, you know, it's still a sort of sadness for them, because they are still over there," Lt. O.J. Dowdy said.

Frank Brown struck a similar chord of satisfaction and sadness over his wife's service.

"We miss her very much, but I guess we are very proud of her, and we admire her," he said.

Sheila Brown did get a verbal gift from Cameron: "I love you," he said.


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  • 1Moms_View Dec 26, 2007

    endoftheroad, that's beautiful and I'm sure it will remain one of your most cherished gifts ever. My brother spent 2 of the last 3 Christmas holidays in Iraq. This year he is home for good and newly married. I couldn't help but think of the men and women still there. While yes, as some of you said, they were aware of the possibility before signing up, it doesn't negate the fact that their families miss them during this time. With the technology available today though, at least they are able to communicate with them much better than soldiers in past decades could.

  • daMoFo Dec 25, 2007

    I remember when my dad was in Vietnam during Christmas, and when he was stationed off the coast of Taiwan during another Christmas. My mom remembers when dad was in Korea during the Korean War during Christmas. No offense to anyone, but this is not the first generation to be apart during holidays. My mom was physically small, but strong. She never bemoaned her situation or spent the days crying. Merry Christmas to the troops overseas.

  • headlong Dec 25, 2007

    My daughter's Boyfriend is over now and we had a bit of time yesterday on the computer so we could see him as well as him us...felt like he was here for a bit. We have a candle burning bright for all the soldiers today!!! God Bless, Thank You, and Merry Christmas To Each and Every One...Present and Past!!!

  • Spooner Dec 25, 2007

    This is part of their job; it is what they signed up for when they enlisted. I truly do appreciate every veterans service and SACRIFICE. I went through it myself once and it did stink to high knowing all the holidays, birthdays, and family get togethers that are missed. Hopefully we will have some people on earth one day who dont want war, oil, land, and oppression.

  • Evil one Dec 25, 2007

    Thanks and Merry Christmas to all the troops and their families.

  • atozca Dec 25, 2007

    May God bless you all. We the people appreciate our military men and women, your volunteering to serve, honor and protect our country is greatly appreciated. Merry Christmas!

  • JBunny Dec 25, 2007

    Hubby called me this morning from Iraq... I volunteered to work so that I wouldn't be all emotional all day. I'm glad that I did... because my volunteering enabled my co-workers with families the ability to be home - and enjoy their loved ones.

  • Tarheel Army Mom Dec 25, 2007

    My 19 year old son was able to call me today from Iraq. This is the first time in 19 years that we have been apart for Christmas...it was difficult... His calling me - made my day!

  • tmedlin Dec 25, 2007

    God bless you and your family - we thank you all for your service!

  • theendoftheroad Dec 25, 2007

    My Christmas gift from my son in Iraq was a little jar his girlfriend gave me that had "Blessings" on the side of it... when I opened the jar, there in my son's handwriting were notes that said " I love you Mom, I miss you, I'll be home soon, I'm OK, Don't worry " about 20 different little slips of paper... I have spent most of the day crying and only spent a bit of time on the phone so neither one of us would cry...
    God bless all the families touched by this war.