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For Military, Holiday Can Be Lonely

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FORT BRAGG — The Thanksgiving holiday is a time to spend with family but many soldiers at Fort Bragg have spent the holiday away from their loved ones.

Nonetheless, one military family still says they have much to be thankful for.

Preparing thanksgiving dinner is a family affair at the Meurer home.

But this year someone is missing. Fort Bragg Sgt. Ron Meurer is in Guatemala City, assisting in Hurricane Mitch Relief.

His wife Melinda says although this is their first Thanksgiving apart, she is thankful her husband is helping others.

"We have a lot," she says, "so anything he can do to help other people is good -- especially at the holiday season because they don't have anything left."

Melinda's family wanted to make sure she wouldn't be left alone for the holiday.

"I've got my daughter but she's not good conversation yet," Melinda says, laughing at her toddler.

So, at the last minute her family packed their bags and made the trip from Miami.

"When we found out Ron would be gone, we didn't want her to be alone so we decided we were definitely coming."

Melinda is counting her blessings for another reason too.

She says it's easier to enjoy the holiday without her husband knowing that he is on a humanitarian mission rather than in the Persian Gulf waiting for Saddam Hussein's next move.

"I don't have to worry about him being in danger all the time," she says. "I know he's there helping instead of waiting to be hurt."

He -- and lots of other U.S. military -- are helping where their presence is needed most this Thanksgiving.

And December's holidays seem to be shaping up the same way. Many Fort Bragg families will also spend those holidays apart.

The latest word is that members of the 18th Aviation Brigade will probably be in Central America through the first of the year.