Embrace fellow Airmen during holiday season

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Kali L. Gradishar
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs
I remember when I joined the Air Force five years ago thinking the worst thing I might endure during my enlistment was not the carrying of arms, blistering heat in the desert or bureaucracy - rather, I dreaded not being home for the holidays.

Coming from a large and close extended family, we not only spent holidays together, but we also gathered days before and after holidays preparing cookies, decorating my grandmother's house or shopping Black Friday deals.

Being away from my family over the holidays was not easy to accept, but I was fortunate to have a support system in place at my first duty station. The first major holiday away from home was Thanksgiving 2007 at Fairchild Air Force Base, Wash. A very kind and culinarily inclined technical sergeant invited friends and me to share the day with her family.

This was my first lesson in realizing that my family extends beyond my grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. It also includes those who don the same uniform, who make the same sacrifices and who understand the dynamic life of an Airman.

The lessons of learning about this Air Force family continued over the years. I've met fellow Airmen from different walks of life - those who were either not close with family or grew up in a family not able to afford celebrating the holidays, or both. Still, those Airmen appreciated the gestures of others who welcomed guests into their homes during the holiday season.

Incirlik, being unique as a short-tour assignment with many unaccompanied Airmen, is unique in that the function of the Air Force family is ever more important.

Even small gestures, from allowing a dorm resident to house sit during a short trip to inviting the Airman for dinner - during the holidays or otherwise - can make that person's day a little brighter. The holidays, especially, are an excellent time to extend a hand to someone far away from home and without the comfort of their family or friends.

Consider your subordinates, peers and even leadership over the coming holiday season; offering your hearts, homes and culinary skills could make someone's unaccompanied tour a little brighter.