Being away from the ones you love during the holidays is difficult. For some though it is done out of necessity, like those who are serving overseas in the military.
Matthew Cherrette of Rogers City is taking part in the war on terror in Afghanistan and instead of opening Christmas gifts with his wife Heather and his two children, Norah, 3, and Mason, 18 months, he will be on the battleground protecting America's freedom.
Heather said this is the children's first Christmas without their father at home, and that she tries to take part in regular family traditions during the holidays to make it easier on them.
News Photo by Steve Schulwitz
Norah and Mason Cherrette look at a picture of their father, Matthew, who is deployed in Afghanistan with the Army National Guard. Matthew’s wife, Heather, said it is the first Christmas the children will be without their father.
"It is hard that he isn't here, but we are going to do the same traditions, visit the same houses and family. It is just obvious he won't be able to be a part of it," Heather said. "We are trying to keep it as close to normal for the kids. Mason is still too young to really know what is going on, but when he sees a picture he starts saying 'Daddy, daddy.' Norah wants her daddy and it pulls at my heart strings when you know there is nothing you can do about it and that is all she wants. There have been times we would have to sit on the floor in Walmart and look at pictures of him and I got dirty looks, but that is how she deals with it."
Even though Matthew in Afghanistan, Heather said she has been updating her husband on what the children are getting from Santa Claus and other details of what is going on with Christmas preparations. She said she can tell when her husband is homesick and longing to be home.
"He is definitely beginning to shut down, like he is kind of disconnecting himself, like many soldiers do when they are deployed and away from family," she said. "It is hard to watch him go through that."
Like others who have loved ones in the military and in combat situations, Heather said she does not pay close attention to news and development of the war. She said when she hears about a death of American soldiers, she gets very nervous until she hears from her husband.
"I don't watch the news. There are times when you see that someone has passed away over there and and I am a wreck until he Skypes me or sends me an instant message on Facebook," Cherrette said. "You always have that worry, but you try not to think about it. When you do, it's depressing, just because I know I could lose the man I love and have to raise the kids by myself. There are times you wait for the moment you get the bad news. I just can't think about it too much."
Unlike families who were apart during the holidays in past wars, Heather said technology has allowed the couple to communicate at least once a day and share photos. She said she uses Skype so the kids can video chat with their dad.
"I can't imagine what families who went through World War II or the Vietnam War had to deal with," she said. "The last time he was deployed in Iraq we only had Yahoo Messenger and and a video camera with no sound. Now it's amazing. I can talk to him while I'm at school, he can jump on the Internet at almost any time and that is what has probably made it the easiest. I can upload photos of the kids, or he can send photos of himself for them. It makes things a lot easier than what it used to be."
Heather said her husband should be back home in 2013, but doubts the family will have a big party to make up for the lost holidays while he was gone. She said there will have to be a period where everyone can get used to one another again.
"We thought about doing something, but I really think it might be too much for him right away," she said. "It is going to take him some time to readjust."
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.