Home for the Holidays

MOUNTAIN HOME AIR FORCE BASE, Idaho -- -- Going home for the holidays is preferred, but not always realistic. Being in the military makes it even harder. Sure, having to pack up and move wherever you're told is inevitable, but the realization of how the distance will affect family life isn't so apparent when signing the dotted line. 

With thousands of miles between relatives the military quickly shows family isn't always blood, sometimes it's your brothers and sisters-in-arms.

Airman 1st Class Kayla Stennis, 366th Operations Support Squadron aircrew flight equipment technician, had her first holiday experience away from home about a year ago. She described it as bittersweet when she had to spend Christmas and New Years in basic training with 45 other trainees who didn't always get along.

"At the end of the day it was a great experience, we were all away from home without our families," said Stennis. "We put our differences aside and realized we still had family within each other."

Whether it's duty or finances hindering a trip home, it can be difficult for both the Airmen and their families.

"The hardest part about not having family for the holidays is everyone calling you from home," said Stennis. "Conversations about how much they miss you and how they hate that you couldn't make it home to be with the rest of the family can make it really tough."

Sometimes the only people who can offer understanding and comfort are the ones recieivng the same phone calls.

"My [military] family makes it easier simply because we can all relate," said Stennis, "whether it's this year or previous years, we've all spent holidays without family."

Although loved ones can't always be around to celebrate the holidays; traditions and fellowship should still feel just as special said Tobias.

"Friends and family are my favorite part of the holidays," said Airman Emily Tobias, 366th Comptroller Squadron customer service technician. "It's just as special here because I still get the kicks and giggles with my friends I would've otherwise gotten with my family members."

After a while the military really begins to feel like family, it's no longer a default option, it's something to value and look forward to.

"Even though my family isn't here I have lots of friends I consider to be my [military] family," said Stennis.

Military family can become just as important as immediate family over time, and be missed just as much.

"I was so ready to go home and be with my family for the holidays, but when I got there I realized I was ready to get back here," said Stennis. "I may have been at home with my immediate family but I realized I missed my military family."