If you’re in the military or have married into the military lifestyle, there is one statement that ranks high on the annoy list than another “are you coming home for the holidays?” Thanksgiving and Christmas time seems to be the most popular time of the year when this question is asked, and most military families will tell you this question alone brings up a collective groan.
As you can imagine, military members and their families are stationed all over the country and around the world. In addition, military members deal with deployments and temporary duty in other locations. So, to hear “are you coming home for the holidays” can be a huge burden especially if they have a spouse and children. Depending on where the military member is located, hearing this statement can be overwhelming and potentially cause a serious financial strain. In addition, many military couples and families are from different states and/or city than their spouse. Which makes it even more difficult and expensive to visit multiple locations within a holiday season or even within a one year timeframe.
Spending time with family can be exciting. It’s usually a time of reflection, enjoyable eating, and manufacturing new memories. Therefore, many military members and families have a difficult time when deciding on whether to travel home or which home to visit.
For example, when I initially joined the Air Force, I was stationed at Yokota Air Force Base in Japan. To get home for the holidays, I would fly from Narita Airport in Tokyo, Japan to Birmingham, Alabama and then drive from Birmingham to Tuscaloosa. This isn’t a small undertaking. Not only would I have to fly more than twelve hours one-way, I would have to pay a minimum of $1400 for one ticket. I should also mention, at the time, I was only making $1400 a month in income (before taxes). Then when I married my husband that was an additional $1400 for his airline ticket. If we had children, then we would also need to purchase airline tickets for them as well. Moreover, many military families must acquire a rental car, hotel rooms, Christmas gifts, and purchase food while they travel. This is a huge undertaking for most military families.
Now that we’re in Los Angeles and closer to home, in comparison to Japan, it’s still time consuming to drive or fly. These are some things I quickly had to realize; I can’t just up and go home because I may want to go or because my family may want me to be there. As a military member and military family, I realized I don’t have to travel home every year or every other year for that matter. If it’s important for my family to see me, they’ll travel to where I am. The distance is the same on both sides and I shouldn’t always take on the financial or time strain alone (each year). Although my husband and I enjoy going home and visiting our extended family, we had to quickly realize the significant cost of money we were incurring. Don’t feel guilty if you’re not able to travel home every year or as much as you may like.
Several factors come into place for military families when making the decisions on whether to travel home for the holidays. If you are relatively close in proximity, you may be able to take a day excursion instead of an overnight trip. Another possibility is inviting your extended family to your home; this can be a fun option. For instance, for many military installations in Northern Virginia and Maryland, are so close to Washington D.C. Of course, there are so several different fun family friendly things to do in D.C.; monuments, museums, parks, etc., the possibilities are endless. For military installations in Los Angeles and other parts of the country it's a matter of finding fun things like miniature golf or going to the movies.
I must remind myself, that I should not feel guilty if I’m unable to travel home for every holiday or every Thanksgiving/Christmas season and neither should you. Remember after Uncle Sam, you and your spouse are the ultimate decision makers when it comes to your family’s travels.
Below are some of the most common thoughts military members think after hearing “are you coming home for the holidays?”
If you're unable to travel, it's great we have technology. You could possible FaceTime, Skype, or use Zoom. Using the available technology is a great alternative to spending hundreds or thousands of dollars.
What are your initial thoughts, when you hear this iconic question? Do you feel guilty if you’re unable to travel home for Thanksgiving or Christmas? I would love to know your thoughts.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and holiday season from Tamieka Smith Photography.
Updated: November 7, 2019
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