Military Families Aren't Whole For The Holidays

More than 140,000  U.S. servicemen and women are deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq this holiday season. They are serving their country, but are away from spouses, children, and parents. This can make the holidays lonely for the families at home who love and worry about them.

SCOTT SIMON, host:

Of course, of the more than 140,000 U.S. service members deployed in Afghanistan and Iraq, most won't make it home this holiday season. They're serving their country, but they're away from their spouses, children and parents. This can make the holidays lonely for the families at home, who love and worry about them.

This week, we spoke with two people near Fort Campbell, Kentucky, who are married to soldiers deployed overseas, about how they try to keep their family spirits high and their loved ones present during the holidays.

We begin with Donnie Mauck(ph), whose wife, Army Sergeant Kelly Mauck(ph), is serving in Afghanistan with the Fourth Brigade Combat Team. They have three children: 10-year-old Donnie(ph), III; 4-year-old Deon(ph); and 2-year-old Sigurin(ph).

Mr. Mauck says trying to look after three kids on his own is its own kind of tireless mission that keeps him

Mr. DONNIE MAUCK (Husband of Army Sergeant Kelly Mauck): Very busy, very busy. From the time I wake up to the time I go to sleep - with the cooking and the cleaning, washing clothes, and preparing dinner and getting the hair done for my little girl. It's like, nonstop. And I got one here, I got one there, and then I just one everywhere.

SIMON: What's the holiday season like for you, Mr. Mauck, with your three kids and with you, and then your wife overseas?

Mr. MAUCK: Well, the holiday season, as I look at it, I try to keep it in uplifting spirits. I try not to dwell, you know, in the holidays, knowing that my wife is deployed and my kids' mother is deployed. I let them know that everything is OK, you know; that Mom's gone for a good reason, you know, and just try to keep them at a level-headed mind.

SIMON: Do you get together with your fellow spouses?

Mr. MAUCK: Yes, I do. We get together, actually, almost every day, which I love about Fort Campbell - where I'm at right now - because it's like we all help each other out. It's like one big family. You know, it takes a village to raise a child, and so we look after each other. If one person needs something, then we all pitch in. Or, if they don't have it, we'll find some way to get it for that person.

SIMON: And what are your plans on Christmas?

Mr. MAUCK: I plan on getting up early; getting a nice, little Christmas Day dinner ready; get my kids up to open up presents and let them just - you know, go haywire and just let them go crazy and get everything, you know, off their mind.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Yeah.

Mr. MAUCK: Get everything off their mind and just, you know, let them run free. Plan on playing some board games and talking to my wife through Skype so she can talk to the babies and see them - and you know, that's always a good thing.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, I can't imagine what it's like for a young mother to be away from three children. This must be hard for her.

Mr. MAUCK: Yes. And she talks about it all the time. In the time of need, I know that she wants to be there for, you know, the motherly times. But like I tell her, I said, you know, look, if we can work hard now and play later - meaning, hey, we work hard now for our kids; later on in life, when we're all sat down and retired, that's when we can relax and enjoy our kids growing up.

SIMON: That's Donnie Mauck, father of three, whose wife, Army Sergeant Kelly Mauck, is serving in Afghanistan.

Pat Moseley(ph) is both an Army wife and an Army mother. Her husband, Sergeant First Class John Moseley(ph), of the 101st Airborne Division's Fourth Brigade, is on a one-year deployment in Afghanistan. So is her son, Army Specialist Chris Moseley(ph).

Pat Moseley and her husband have been married for 20 years. She knows how long periods apart can take a toll on a marriage, but says that many of the new communications technologies help make them feel connected.

Ms. PAT MOSELEY (Army Wife and Mother): It actually keeps us centered and grounded. It keeps our marriage alive. I think that the longer that you're apart, the more that you have time to talk to each other, the better off and the easier the transitions are either going or coming.

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. MOSELEY: You know, when they leave or when they're on the way back. And you feel like you're almost together.

SIMON: And may I ask, how old is your son, Chris Moseley?

Ms. MOSELEY: He's 24.

SIMON: And how's he doing?

Ms. MOSELEY: He's doing good. This is his first deployment. He just - he misses being home.

SIMON: Yeah.

Ms. MOSELEY: He's got a wife - my daughter-in-law - and so he just misses being home with her and the kids. But he's doing OK; he's hanging in there. He's a soldier.

SIMON: He's a soldier.

Ms. MOSELEY: Yes, he is.

SIMON: Boy, I want to put this in the nicest possible way, but when you have a husband and a son in what, after all, is a theater of operations - a war zone -does it give you added comfort that although they're in separate locations, they're kind of supporting each other? Or does it make you feel just more vulnerable than ever?

Ms. MOSELEY: It's a two-edged sword. They're able to talk. So when my husband gets on the phone and says he talked to Chris, or when my son calls me and said, I talked to Dad today, you know, they were actually able to communicate. So I feel closer for them.

I feel very good when they call and talk to each other 'cause I know everything is OK. It gives me two people to worry about, but this isn't my first rodeo. I have learned that even if I don't hear from my son or my husband for several days - and this sounds bad, but it's the truth - so long as I don't have a green suitor knocking on my door, I know everything is OK. Even if I can't talk to them, I know that their mission is busy. And so long as I don't have a green suitor knocking on my door, I get through each day that way.

SIMON: How you going to spend Christmas, may we ask?

Ms. MOSELEY: We're going to - my husband and I and my son - we're all going to be on the computer together talking as we, you know, unwrap the gifts that we sent to each other. And that way, we can have that piece of Christmas together. We did the same thing for Hanukkah 'cause I celebrate Hanukah, and my husband celebrates Christmas. So during Hanukkah, he - you know - was with me whenever he could - on the phone - and we were talking and doing our prayers and everything for Hanukkah together that way too, so.

SIMON: Yeah. Well, Mrs. Moseley, mazel tov.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. MOSELEY: Thank you, sir.

SIMON: Hanukah tov and Christmas tov, I should say.

Ms. MOSELEY: Yeah.

SIMON: And Merry Christmas to you and yours. I must say, the Moseleys have given an awful lot to our country. Thank you.

Ms. MOSELEY: Well, sir, our country's given an awful lot to us, and this is our way of repaying that. We have a lot to be thankful for and a lot to be blessed for in this country, and this is what we do so that we can continue to be that way.

SIMON: Well, thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us.

Ms. MOSELEY: Thank you, sir.

SIMON: Pat Moseley, just outside of Fort Campbell, Kentucky.

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