What It Means to Visit Relatives for a Military Family
Written by Valerie McCarley
With frequent moves, many military families find themselves miles apart from their loved ones and extended family throughout the year. This separation can be even more pronounced during the holidays, leading to feelings of isolation and loneliness. That’s why family visits — especially during the holidays — are vital to providing a sense of connection and stability amidst the constant change of military life. For a service family, spending time with their nearest and dearest means everything.
“Family is not an important thing. It’s the only thing.” — Michael J. Fox
As fall fades into winter, scenes of togetherness play on our screens and in our hearts. We picture families gathered in the warm glow of fireplaces, candles, or twinkle lights. Smiling faces, heartfelt embraces, and the comforts of home flicker before our eyes. Young and old are filled with a renewed sense of wonder and awe as we move from one year to another.
For each of us, these images quickly morph into our own lived experiences. For me, the scent of fresh-baked cookies fills the air as I watch snow fall softly into the quiet night. I delight in the memory of family traditions and inside jokes. I can almost taste the home-cooked meals from recipes that have been passed down for generations.
I miss this. I’ve been absent from so many of these moments over the years as travel and time away became more complicated with each passing duty station — but those times when we are together? Priceless.
These once-a-year visits bring unparalleled joy and companionship. They’ve evolved as I’ve grown older, from visits back home to family now filling our home — wherever that may be. From the first Christmas with our nephew to a hometown holiday getaway (sprinkled with all my favorite traditions!) to a Christmas dinner on the beach, we celebrate our time together, which is the biggest gift of all.
These visits often reunite us with family we haven’t seen for years.
I grew up in a tight-knit community. With two brothers and aunts, uncles, and cousins galore, I was surrounded by love and support. But in 17 years as a military spouse, I’ve only been able to gather with my parents and both brothers a handful of times. Imagine that. Imagine that not only miles but years, separate you from your closest relatives.
I often long for the peace, comfort, and simplicity of home, and know so many other military households feel the same.
It’s in these moments that the ASYMCA steps in to strengthen military families…
“A Salute to Their Service” Giveaway
In honor of National Military Family Appreciation Month in November, the ASYMCA is partnering with American Airlines to celebrate the courage, strength, and service of military families like mine.
All junior enlisted U.S. military families (that’s E-6 and below) are encouraged to share what military service means to them. It’s a chance to express, in your own words, the depth of commitment and sacrifice that goes hand-in-hand with service. The family with the most “salutes,” or votes will win 500,000 miles, courtesy of American Airlines. This includes those stationed overseas, in Hawaii, or even Alaska!
Knowing that there are initiatives like this, recognizing and giving back to families who serve, fills my heart with gratitude. This could be a chance for a military family to reunite with those they’ve missed, to bridge the distance that service often demands.