I won’t be home for the Holidays

  • Published
  • By Staff Sgt. Eric Mann
  • 39th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

Leaning unevenly, with several branches nearly broken off, a second-hand Christmas tree with one string of lights illuminates the room. The single strand of lights is stretched thin, weaved in-between a variety of generic Christmas decorations, all except one.

In the center of the tree hangs a homemade ornament. A tiny hand print cast into clay. For Staff Sgt. Joseph Carter, 39th Air Base Wing Command Post controller, that’s as close to his son as he’ll get for the holidays.

“My son was one month and five days old when I left,” Carter said. An unfortunate but all too familiar situation for many service members.

Carter is currently serving a 12-month unaccompanied tour at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, while his wife is back home, taking care of their son.

“We had just found out we’re having a boy and then two days later I got my assignment, and that was a huge shock,” said Carter.

One evening while relaxing at home with his wife, Carter received a phone call from his supervisor. Carter had been selected for his next assignment. Knowing his wife was pregnant and his assignment was an unaccompanied tour, it was difficult news to receive.

“I’ve not been away from my wife for the holidays before,” Carter continued. “I’ve done the whole 30-60-day temporary duty thing, but never with a kid and never during the holidays. So this is definitely an interesting experience.”

Being separated from your family is difficult for everyone, especially when you just had a baby.

“I have been struggling with it. It’s not an easy situation for me or anyone who’s going through the same type of situation,” Carter said. “It is hard, but my wife and I make the conscious effort to FaceTime and communicate through our time apart. That has been, and will continue to be, a huge help, especially throughout the holidays.”

Despite the distance and time difference, Carter and his family find creative ways spend time together.

“My wife and I do a bunch of stuff together, like play games against each other on our phones so even when we can’t talk a lot during busy times of the day, we can still play this little game,” said Carter. “Every now and then we’ll see there’s a new show out and we’ll both try to start it at the same time, as if were watching it together, and well text back and forth our reactions.”

While many would dwell on the negative aspects about being separated from their family, Carter looks on the bright side.

“It turned out this assignment ended up being a good thing in the end. I was able to reenlist and make extra money while I’m here.” Carter Continued, “So even though there are some really crappy things that go on sometimes, there always seems to be a plan in place that just kind of helps you get along. There is a lot I’m missing and that’s not going to change, but long-term, it’ll all be worth it in the end.”

Being a service member can be a demanding career and comes with a lot of sacrifice. Carter’s story is just one example of this. Being separated from family for 12 months is less than ideal to say the least, but with the right attitude and a strong support system anyone is able to make the most out of every opportunity.