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Year in review

As the year draws to its close, it’s a good time to look back at the experiences, individuals and events covered in Spouse Calls in 2013.

I began the new year by reflecting on our family’s holidays. We celebrated with good friends — military families from a past assignment — all of our children and all of theirs, gathered from all over the world. We knew the reunion was special, but we didn’t know that we would never all be together again.

The battle of Bedford Falls

It’s that time of year: The time when I go around quoting from my favorite holiday movies, especially “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the 1946 classic starring Jimmy Stewart.

One particular line from the Frank Capra film embodies a truth of military family life. It’s a voice-over spoken by an angel, narrating the WWII experiences of the protagonist, George Bailey.

Gift of safe shopping

I don’t want to alarm anyone, but the number of shopping days until Christmas has dwindled to single digits. Buying season is in full swing. When living overseas, online shopping might be the only way to find a particular gift, or the most convenient way to send gifts to family back in the States. At home and abroad, most of us are making online purchases.

Whether at a computer, at the mall or the Exchange, all credit purchases are processed online, so shopping safely is important everywhere. Keeping personal financial information secure might not sound festive, but it should be at the top of holiday to-do lists, according to security experts.

Grace and peace

I met Monwabisi Andrew Jamangile at an international military conference in Italy in 2011. He was the guest of honor, a chaplain representing the South African National Defense Force. I attended the event with my husband, then serving with United States Africa Command. My husband had met Andrew, as he asked us to call him, on a previous trip to South Africa.

The three of us went out to dinner together, at a small restaurant near our hotel. We talked during dinner, but when there were silences, Andrew didn’t seem to mind. After a sentence was spoken, whether by one of us or by him, he would look directly at us and pause, as if waiting to see if what had been said would take root or if it was too shallow to affect the direction of our conversation.

Pieces of peace

Since George Washington crossed the Delaware on Christmas Eve in 1776, en route to rout the British at Trenton, American military members and their families have marked the holiday in many ways, some less conventional than others.

Wreaths, check; Toys, check; Cookies, check; Tracking Santa by radar and satellite, check; delivering huge Christmas gifts by parachute, yes, check that too. Every family has its own holiday traditions. Here are some from the military family at large: