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For most Americans, the Holidays are spent with family and friends. From Thanksgiving dinners with the in-laws to presents on Christmas morning, every family has their own unique holiday traditions.

But many of the service members protecting our country overseas don’t have the luxury of spending the Holidays with family. Instead of opening presents, they’re pulling guard duty in Afghanistan or launching planes off of an aircraft carrier.

Whether they’re celebrating Christmas on a forward operating base or spending New Years at sea, celebrating the holidays during a deployment is a unique experience. But one thing is constant across the board: Service members use their creativity to make the most of the holidays.

What are the Holidays Like on a Deployment?

Being away from family and friends during the holidays is hard for anyone. It’s even more difficult for service members who also have to deal with enemy troops on top of homesickness. At the same time, many Veterans look back fondly on holidays spent deployed. While military members don’t get to spend time with their real families during a deployment, they still have their brothers and sisters in arms.

In some situations, holidays aren’t treated differently from any other day. After all, the Taliban still works on Christmas. When possible, however, units come up with unique ways to celebrate the holidays together. Here are a few ways military members spend the holidays while deployed:

Holiday Shenanigans
Humor is a common way to deal with the stress of a deployment, and the holidays are no exception to this. From setting up a giant inflatable decoration on a remote outpost in Afghanistan to having “Santa” hand out gifts in the barracks, holiday pranks are widespread during a deployment.

Military Feast
Most units do their best to supply good food for holidays, even during deployments. Additionally, deployed troops will often receive homemade snacks from loved ones around the holiday season. While it’s not the same as grandma’s cooking, the combination of these can be a treat.

Recreation
If they can, people in the military do their best to relax and have fun during the holidays. Something as simple as a spades tournament or a movie marathon can make the holidays special. Some units will even have ugly sweater contests or gift exchanges while deployed!

Decorations
You can’t really hang up Christmas lights on a guard tower as you would on your house, but service members still find creative ways to decorate while deployed. From using Amazon to send decorations to a ship in Oman, to hanging up spent bullet casings on a Christmas tree in Afghanistan, service members still manage to get into the holiday spirit!

Fighting
It’s important to recognize that some of our troops downrange don’t have the luxury of celebrating the holidays at all. Instead, they’re too busy fighting for our country. So when you’re enjoying the holidays this year, remember the military members who are risking their lives so you can celebrate in peace.

A big focus of our business is connecting with and supporting Veterans in our community. If you’re a Veteran, what’s your favorite story of celebrating the holidays overseas? Leave a comment below!

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