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Missing those that serve overseas at Christmastime

Published 7:59am Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas is for family. We travel to see our loved ones during the holidays.
We wait in anticipation for those close to us to come back home.
Popular songs embody our desire for family, with one crooning: “I’ll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams.”
It would be especially hard to leave as the holidays get closer. Yet, in a scene that has been repeated many times over since 2001, Alabama National Guard members are deploying to serve their country.
The Alabama National Guard’s 1312th Engineer Detachment, based in Alexandria, has been called to active duty to support Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The unit expects to be gone for about a year.
Their deployment date: the Monday before Christmas.
The military knows no holidays, only duty. If the calendar says they are needed in another place halfway around the globe, then they ship out.
The Alabama National Guard is the embodiment of the citizen-soldier our country was founded upon.
Theses men and women are our neighbors, co-workers and family. When they deploy, it directly impacts our communities, workplaces, churches and schools.
It is why Guard deployments feel and act much different than other military actions.
Gone are the days when a Guard unit would be called up only in times of emergency and natural disaster.
We are thankful of the support they provided communities devastated by the April tornadoes.
Anyone who experienced the hurricanes and other terrible storms of the past decade can attest to the professionalism and care that our Guard units possess.
With our military engaged in conflicts abroad, the role of the Alabama National Guard changed.
Active duty deployments are the norm, not the exception, for local units. Alabama has been a national leader in the number of Guard troops called up.
More than 17,000 personnel have served since the attacks on September 11, making our Guard a top contributor to the national defense.
The Alabama Army National Guard is currently the sixth largest Guard in the nation and is first per capita with more than 11,000 soldiers.
We’ve had several units deployed this year to help with the winding down of the Iraq war.
With the end of that conflict, and hopefully the same in Afghanistan, our proud state can welcome home all its heroes.
The song, “I’ll be Home for Christmas,” is even more poignant when thinking about the East Alabama unit, and all those active military and Guard member Alabamians standing vigil for us.
The song was written in 1943, from the point of view of an overseas soldier during WWII writing a letter to his family. “Christmas Eve will find me.
Where the love light beams. I’ll be home for Christmas. If only in my dreams.”
Let’s say a special prayer for the 1312th shipping out this week, and every Alabama citizen doing their part.
It is because of them we can gather in safety with our own family this wonderful holiday season.

Johnny Mack Morrow is a state representative for Franklin County. His column appears each Wednesday.

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