December 20, 2010

Away From Home, But In Our Hearts

Guest column submitted by U.S. Senator Mike Crapo

One of the best gifts during the holidays is time with family and friends. The holidays provide time to catch up with close and distant loved ones. We can relax in the familiarity of shared traditions and celebrate common memories. We can reflect on experiences and lessons from the past year and discuss plans for the coming year. We are afforded this time of enjoyment due in large part to the diligence of American service members forgoing holidays at home and vigilantly defending our nation.

War and violence do not take holidays, and the holidays are oftentimes periods of increased threats by those who want to disrupt American customs. Fortunately, brave men and women are constantly working to protect us and our way of life. According to U.S. Department of Defense data, there are more than 1.4 million active duty service members in the U.S. Armed Forces. The Idaho National Guard's 116th Cavalry Brigade Combat Team recently deployed to Iraq, where they will be stationed through Christmas for an expected one-year deployment. Approximately 100 Army Reservists with the 391st Army Reserve Unit, based in Boise, are preparing to deploy. Airmen from Mountain Home Air Force Base have also been serving overseas. Each American in uniform has a demanding responsibility to help end the multiple threats to our nation and communities. For many American service members meeting this enormous responsibility means spending the holidays away from home at their posts protecting Americans and our communities, and Idaho families have loved ones serving in various units deployed over the holidays.

While technological advancements have improved the ability of service members, especially those serving in remote locations, to connect with their family and friends, the comfort of the presence of a loved one cannot be replaced. Military families often bear months and years of separation, and the holidays can be difficult reminders of the absence of a family member serving in a warzone. Families of service members demonstrate remarkable amounts of patience, endurance and strength as they await the return of their loved ones. Service members and their families give extensively to our nation. Time away from their loved ones is among their irreplaceable contributions. I am grateful for their tremendous sacrifices. We owe a sincere debt of gratitude for this unselfish heroism.

In recognition of this service, sacrifice and the challenges military families face, letters and messages can provide needed encouragement during extended time apart from loved ones. As we celebrate the holidays, it is important to remember the continued sacrifice of the many members of the military and their families who are separated from their loved ones. My thoughts and prayers are with our brave men and women in uniform for a safe return home.

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