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Christmas with half your heart deployed

JACKSONVILLE, N.C. — It just doesn’t feel like Christmas without daddy being home.

For the Lavadour family, this year is one of four Christmases that their husband and father will not be home due to a deployment. Married for more than 10 years, holidays and special events spent apart have almost become the norm, according to Melissa Lavadour, but it doesn’t make them any easier. As a former Marine staff sergeant, Melissa Lavadour understands that deployments are a necessary evil for her Marine husband, she said; but seeing their two children, Ariana, 9, and Joseph, 6, miss their father makes the holidays a little more difficult.

“We definitely talk about him and how much we miss him, but it makes the kids sad,” Melissa Lavadour said. “But it’s my job to turn them around and make them happy again. We know he wishes he could be here and that’s what matters.”

Her husband, an infantry gunnery sergeant, is currently deployed to Afghanistan is one of more than 250,000 men and women in the armed forces who will be deployed during the holiday season, according to the American Forces Press Service. Roughly 39,500 service members are currently in Afghanistan, down from 66,000 at the beginning of the year. Other areas with troops deployed include South Sudan, South Korea, Germany, Great Britain, Japan, Italy and Belgium.

For Becky Miller of Richlands, this is the first time in 13 years that her husband has been away over Christmas, which makes the holidays even more difficult for herself and her two children, she said.

“My son, Cooper, is 3 and we just tell him dad will be home later and he is OK with that,” Miller said. “My daughter, who is 8, took it pretty hard this time. He’s been gone most of her life. It’s never seemed to have bothered her before, but it’s depressing for her. It’s been real hard on her this time.”

Being with MARSOC, her husband cannot always talk about what he does during operations, but that isn’t always a bad thing, according to Miller. Her daughter, Clair, doesn’t completely understand what he is doing, she said, and would more than likely have a more difficult time throughout the deployment if she did.

Being a full time nursing student, mother and “father” is difficult, she said, but the hardest part is making sure her kids are happy when they are on the phone with their dad. She doesn’t want him feeling down from missing everything they are doing, she said.

“It sucks – definitely not fun,” Miller said. “This is the first time so we’re doing everything on our own for the holidays. At least when he is here if I ask him to do something he will do it. Now I have nobody to ask.

“It puts more stress on you.”

Lavadour, having been in the Marine Corps herself, said that knowing how dangerous a deployment can be for an infantryman doesn’t put her mind at ease.

“The hardest part is that he’s not here and he misses out on the kids growing up,” Lavadour said. “I just want him to know that we love him, miss him and want him to be safe.”

Since he cannot be home for the holidays, the Lavadour family sends Christmas to him, they said. Boxes full of school work and artwork have made their way to Afghanistan, hopefully bringing him a little closer to home, she said.

“Deployments are harder around Christmas because it would normally be a family oriented time,” Melissa Lavadour said. “It’s just hard not having him here to share in all the happy times. I miss him making the kids smile.”

The hardest part for Joseph Lavadour is having to be the man of the house, he said. While he said it is fun at times, looking out for his sister and mother can be “rough” but hopes his dad is proud.

“I miss my dad because he is a funny guy,” Joseph Lavadour said. “I miss our man time like wrestling with him. I wish he was here because it would be a lot more fun on Christmas.”

For Ariana Lavadour, Skype has been a blessing, keeping her in touch with her father, who she said is her favorite person in her family because he always makes her smile. Her dream this year would be to have her dad wrestle WWE superstar John Cena because she thinks her dad would win.

“I love my dad,” Ariana Lavadour said. “I can’t wait to tackle him, hug him and just cling to him.

“I’m never going to let him go.”
 

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