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Brigitte Appelman gets ready for Christmas with her sons, Hartley and Ashton. She is expecting to give birth to her third child any day now. Her husband deployed to Iraq earlier this month.
Brigitte Appelman gets ready for Christmas with her sons, Hartley and Ashton. She is expecting to give birth to her third child any day now. Her husband deployed to Iraq earlier this month. (Erik Slavin / S&S)

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — The tree is decorated and the red stockings are hanging in Brigitte Appleman’s apartment. It looks like Christmas in her new home, but it’s unlike any other Christmas she’s ever experienced.

On Dec. 1, after two weeks’ notice and about two months on Okinawa, Marine Staff Sgt. Darryl Appleman deployed to Iraq. And his wife, Brigitte, who is expecting her third child any day now, faces the first Christmas without parents and family nearby.

“It certainly doesn’t feel like Christmas, I can tell you that,” said Appleman, whose father is a retired soldier in Texas. Her brother is stationed in Texas at Fort Hood.

Dealing with a deployed loved one is difficult enough, and some spouses say that it gets even tougher during the holidays.

But spouses should know others are sharing a very similar experience, says Marine wife Cathy Kiser. Kiser, manager at Tengan Castle on Camp Courtney, recently saw her husband deploy.

She has found support through a group of spouses whose husbands were attached to the 3rd Marine Division but deployed as individual augments. Spouses at other bases are welcome to socialize, she said.

One of the spouses Kiser has met is Anita Rice, whose husband currently is deployed to Afghanistan. Rice’s story shares a lot with Appleman’s. Her husband deployed earlier than expected and she, too, is expecting her third child soon.

Rice encouraged women new to the island, with deployed spouses, to meet other spouses. Church congregations also can help, she said. “Seeking those support systems is so important,” Rice said.

While the holidays may not be the same without her husband, Marine Maj. Jay Rice, she and her children are making videotapes and scrapbooks to include him as much as possible.

“We’re trying to create those memories for him,” Rice said. “He feels that loss [of family time] so much more than we do.”

Spouses of deployed troops also can meet each other during a dinner held at Kadena Air Base’s Chapel One on the fourth Saturday of every month. Child care is provided at the dinners. And spouses of deployed troops from all branches are welcome, said Tech Sgt. Tammy Stiles of Kadena’s Family Support Center.

The center also provides free live video-conferencing for those wanting to speak to deployed spouses, she said, and volunteers are available to help with chores like car and lawn maintenance. Call DSN 634-3366 for more information.

The Marine Corps Community Services Family Team Building also provides assistance and programs for spouses of deployed Marines. Call DSN 645-3689 for more information.

For many spouses, the deployed servicemember’s unit can be the best resource during the holidays. A Marine from Appleman’s husband’s unit invited her family over for Christmas. And a staff sergeant from her husband’s unit has offered to take personal leave to care for Appleman’s two children while she is in the hospital having her baby, she said.

“They have really done a lot to look after me,” Appleman said. “They have gone above and beyond … because I’m not their responsibility by any means.”

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