Military Families Face Tough Times During The Holidays

The homecoming celebrations for some South Mississippi Army National Guardsmen may not happen when their families expect. The 890th Engineering Battalion now serving in Iraq has been on active duty since February. A spokesman for Family Support Services says last week the military extended the soldiers' orders by four months--through June of next year.

In the meantime many military families are facing a difficult holiday season without their loved ones.

It was a feast less about food and more about family. In particular families like Marie Whitfield's whose brother, Sgt. Michael Harris, won't be home this Thanksgiving.

"It's a good feeling to, you know, to know that everybody is feeling the same thing at this time of the year and we miss our loved ones," said Whitfield. "It's kind of hard."

Some family members say with the holiday season they need support now more than ever.

Natalie Stockstill is chairperson of Family Support Services. She's also the wife of a deployed soldier. "The thought of waking up Christmas morning and them not being there. That's just breaks our hearts and personally myself I try not to think about it. There's something missing to us, and it's not normal this year so it's really hard to go through the holidays without them being here."

Three-year-old Dominic's mother has already missed a lot since leaving with the 787th medical detachment. It was his grandmother who potty trained him, and it was his grandmother who was there when his brother Zachary lost four teeth. Soon their mother will also miss another big event, Christmas morning.

Karen Shubert is the boys' Grandma. "We decided to do 12 days of Christmas and divided over the 12 days instead of that one big morning because it's just too hard to deal with."

The Knights of Columbus post 6872 in Picayune sponsored the Thanksgiving dinner. The group has held other activities for the military families like Easter Egg hunts and Fourth of July celebrations.