Tuesday, December 22, 2015

The Holiday Season

It's a time of year when we should appreciate all that we have. I know, Thanksgiving was last month, but seriously, is that the only time of year you are thankful for your family, your friends, and all you hold dear? I think not.

I saw something on the Book of Face the other day which set me to cogitating, never something to be approached lightly. Makes my head hurt it does. But regardless, I pressed on and let those remaining brain cells do their thing.

First of all, while many of us will be with family or friends to celebrate the birth of our Savior this Friday, and that is what we're celebrating, n'est-ce pas, there will be those who are alone, those missing a loved one who is gone, those who are far from home, and many who find the Christmas season depressing, for one reason or another.

Well, I feel bad for those folks, I will pray for those folks, but that's not what this post is about.

Now remember, before I go much further, I served 24 years in the Air Force, over half of that time overseas, but, with one notable exception (which I wrote about here), I was with my immediate family, starting with a wife. Then a wife and a son, then a daughter, then another daughter, then we added a couple of felines (in Germany). So while I was away from home, my ancestral home, and was missed dearly by my Mom, Dad, maternal grandmother, and two brothers (well, okay, I'm not sure how much they missed me, after all, with me overseas, they would be getting more attention, neh? Yeah, I'm sure they missed me, in a brotherly kind of way, but it's not the same as a parent or grandparent missing someone at the Christmas feast, I've been there, done that, on both sides of the equation), I was still spending the holidays with family. Just not all of them.

There are those in the military this season who will be miles, sometimes thousands of miles, from their families. Now for the single folk, it's different. When you're in a good outfit, the guys and gals you serve with become your family. You sweat with them, you eat with them, you sleep with them (not in that way you prurient types) and sometimes, yeah, you bleed with them. So while you miss mom and dad, the grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins and the siblings, it's different from the married folk. Odds are, the single kids will figure out a way to enjoy the season. They're with their buddies. That phrase "band of brothers" isn't just a saying, it's real in many, many ways.

Now the married folks, if they're serving an unaccompanied tour (that is, someplace remote where you can't bring your family) have a much tougher row to hoe. Their spouse and kids (if they have any) are not there. While they are serving within that "band of brothers" and won't be completely alone, there is a special pain in being separated from the wife/husband and the bairns. Even the toughest troop will shed a tear or two while thinking of a loved one so far away. Don't get me started on how the kids feel when Mom or Dad are deployed. There is a certain age where they don't really understand. They get the concept of Mom or Dad having to "go to work" for long periods away from home, but it's tough when little Billy down the street always has both parents at home.

Military kids are tough, for the most part they learn to deal with it, but being "used to it" doesn't make it any easier.

There's another group of people, not in the military, who might be in town for the holidays, maybe even at home for part of the holiday. Sometimes they're in the same town or city as their loved ones for the holiday, but they're not at home. They're working.

I was struck by that thought on Thanksgiving Day. The womenfolk of the tribe discovered that we were missing some common, but necessary, element for the feast. Sure we could make do without it, but it would be "not as good." So I was dispatched to fetch that needed ingredient and The Sea-lawyer came with me. As we headed out of the house we heard the plaintive cry, "Oh yeah, whipped cream, we need whipped cream for the pie!" So now our mission was two-fold. That key ingredient (which the nature of escapes me) and whipped cream.

So we headed a quarter-mile down the hill to the Shell gas station. There is a mini-mart therein where folks may obtain any number of needful things. That mystery ingredient being one, whipped cream (I thought) being another. Yes, I have to say I panicked a bit until I saw one last can of Reddi-Whip (okay, not the finest of whipped creams but better than no whipped cream). Quickly I glanced about, ready to hip check, body check or otherwise impede any other customers from grabbing that last can. No one was near, I dashed over to the cooler, grabbed it, and did a little victory dance. Luckily no one was watching.

As I paid for the stuff (The Sea-lawyer had found the mystery ingredient, nope I still can't remember what it was, it'll come to me, five minutes after this post hits the inter-webs no doubt), I happened to realize that the kid behind the counter was working. On a holiday.

He was not home with his family. He was gainfully employed and providing a necessary service. Stuff needed by the forgetful (that would be me) and probably fuel for those driving to and fro on family type holiday outings.

So I thanked him for being there. For working on a holiday.

He was a bit nonplussed when I did that. Then he saw my hat (the one with "USAF" seemingly all over it, see below) and his eyes lit up. I said that I was very appreciative of the folks who worked the holidays (for whatever reason, be in monetary, be it lack of seniority, what-have-you), because they are the ones who keep society working. We can't all just knock off for a few days and trust that we have everything we need ready to hand. He smiled, we shook hands and he thanked me for my service. A classy gesture on his part. Another one of those good kids you usually never hear about.

Okay, it doesn't have "USAF" all over it,
but over most of the front anyway...

So this holiday season, remember the working folk, those far from home, perhaps those just down the street. The cops, the firefighters, the ambulance crews, the airline crews, the long-haul truckers, the train crews, the folks manning the innumerable gas stations, Kwiki Marts, truck stops, and the like. The doctors, the nurses, the hospital techs, the nursing home attendants, and others involved in tending to the sick and the elderly.

Perhaps you've "been there, done that." Wouldn't it have been nice if someone thanked you for that? It doesn't need to be a big deal, yeah, some folks will be pricks about it, but you don't have to be. After all, a favorite coach of mine in these parts is fond of telling people to "just do your job."

These folks are doing precisely that. They make society work, they make life better for the rest of us. After all, there is a lot of truth to that old saying, "Somebody's got to mind the store..."

Give thanks for what you've got and for what others provide. Anyhoo, that's how I feel about it.


  1. Nice post. Side note: Y'all are paying a lot for gas!

    1. Thanks Cap'n.

      Side note, I didn't take the picture, I got it from the Internet (properly credited of course). At the moment we're paying around $2.15 or thereabouts in these parts.

  2. Smart kid. There's a great deal of satisfaction to be had in placing service ahead of self. Even if it's just by a tiny bit.

    I was "family home" for the holidays only once during my navy years. I was on the beach a couple of times, but the rest of my navy holidays were on the boat. Those holidays were GREAT and are some of my favorite experiences of all time. Hard to explain in a few words, but I feel extraordinarily blessed to have had the opportunity.

  3. In my 14 years of oppressing people, I never minded working Christmas Eve and Christmas night. They were, in general, pretty quiet. What I hated, but always volunteered to work, was Amatuer Night, December 31, when the amatuer drunks came out of the woodwork, and there were lots of family disputes, bar fights, DUIs, and , unfortunately, wrecks with casualties. I always volunteered to work, as Badgers Protect and Serve, always, not just when it is convenient, and New Years Eve's a night when we must be out there. Now that I am retired fro LE, and am working as a night audit at a resort, I hate it even more, as I am dealing with even larger numbers of obnoxious drunks, and have no real effective options to deal with them, other than to try and head them for their condos. But I have survived up until now, and intent on continuing to do so.

    I did have something rather amusing happen to me last Saturday night, though. I was sitting behind the front desk, folding resort maps. I have sort of let it go a bit longer than perhaps I should, since my last haircut, and I have a rather impressive mop of gray hair. Now from the front side of the front desk, I could only be seen from the top of my shoulders up. A famiy came in after midnight, having been to the late showing of Star Wars at the Desert Star Cinema. The 4 year old daughter saw me, and walked up to the desk with a look of awe on her face, and aske, " Are you Mrs.Claus?" I can assure you of two things, I look NOTHING like Jessica Claus, and I am getting a haircut Wednesday.

    1. Wow! I would get a haircut at that point as well.

      New Year's Eve, too much alcohol, not enough sense. A holiday I have never really liked.

  4. I've had my own experiences with the holidays, including a Yahtzee in 1962 at Pearl Harbor.
    I managed to have the duty on Thanksgiving, Christmas, and New Years Eve (sometimes three section duty works out that way).

    As a civilian I've worked those holidays as well.
    In almost every occasion my employers were most accommodating.
    I can think of only one Thanksgiving when I was unable to join my family.
    That led to an extended period of unemployment.

    1. I presume that when you say "Yahtzee" you mean "Yahtzee" and that is not a naval service acronym/euphemism of which I am unaware. One never knows with sailors...

      As a civilian I've never had to work a holiday. Wearing a uniform I was pretty lucky there as well. Of course, I was in the Air Force...

    2. Sat an alert one Christmas. Watching Caddyshack for the 23rd time with my wingman and the maintainers on five minute notice to go and slay the godless NORKs is not a great way to celebrate the birth of our Savior.

    3. True but it needs to be done. Too many folks forget that part, those guys really do want to kill us.

    4. I meant, of course, that I got all of them in a row.

  5. It is a tough time of year to not be with family...and thank you for your service!

    1. And thank you for all the good work you did over the years.

      And thanks for your entertaining blog and, lest I forget, thanks for paying me, clothing me, housing me, and feeding me for those 24 years I spent in the Air Force. Couldn't have done it without the folks "minding the store" back home.

  6. I vividly remember my last PCS posting, an 18 month hardship visit to Okinawa (not sure if it still is a no-family allowed tour). It was too much for my wife so I ended up getting a Dear John letter, complete with divorce papers, from her. Leaving the island was not an option. Some years later I just accepted that it may have been for the better. Life's path is a murky one that sometimes we can choose, sometimes it is chosen for us. You just have to deal with it. I've worked the holidays pre and post my military service, and it is okay as someone has to do the work, and I am still close to the family if not with them. Totally agree with thanking those that are working during the Holiday's.

    1. Kadena had two tour lengths when I was there, 18 months unaccompanied, 36 accompanied. As Juvat can attest, it is anything but a hardship tour these days. Nor was it when I was there in the waning years of the second worst presidency. Being unaccompanied at the time was no big deal, as I was single. Sending a married troop there, sans spouse seems cruel indeed. As you say though, things happen for a reason, we don't always get a vote in the outcome but, as that coach mentioned above likes to say, it is what it is.

      More's the pity sometimes...

  7. I agree 100%, of course. Being one of the very blessed, who gets to spend every holiday with family, how could I disagree and still look at myself in the mirror (especially with my face)? You're a good man, Sarge. Merry Christmas!

    1. Hahaha!

      Right back at you Suldog. (Or should I say Professor Suldog, I read your bit over at Discover. Volcanoes and stuff, love it.

  8. I remember my mother working Christmas several times when I was younger and she wasn't yet the head-honcho nurse she later became. Nurses, farmers, Butterball Turkey customer service operators, and lots of other folks have to work the holidays and we tend to forget them. Thanks for the reminder.

    1. They are important. At least I think they are.


Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)
Can't be nice, go somewhere else...

NOTE: Comments on posts over 5 days old go into moderation, automatically.