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Longing for home during the holidays

Veterans recall the difference deployment made in celebrating holidays away from family

Chris Jarvis (top), Ryan Burgos and family (left), Rhonda White (right)
Chris Jarvis (top), Ryan Burgos and family (left), Rhonda White (right)

Being far from home during the holidays can be hard on deployed service members. Missing out on the infectious spirit of the season and removed from festivities with friends and family can bring on the blues.

Rhonda White was 24 years old when she first spent the holidays away from her family and loved ones. It was November 1990, and the young soldier was deployed to Saudi Arabia where she worked for the Long-Range Planning Cell located in Dhahran and the King Khalid Military City during Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm.

“It was hard and lonely at times, but knowing that I was serving for such a cause gave me strength and much purpose,” said White. 

As a soldier deployed to Afghanistan during the holidays, Chris Jarvis didn’t seem fazed by being on the other side of the world. 

“You know, I was single and enjoyed spending the holidays with my buddies who were also single. When we would get leave, we’d go do something fun and make some great memories,” he said.

However, on Christmas Day, Jarvis noticed several of his fellow soldiers, who were married with children, eagerly awaiting phone calls with family just to have a few minutes of holiday cheer together.

“I saw many of my comrades come in exhausted from the mission. They stayed awake for hours to make sure they didn’t miss their turn to call home,” he said. “The time difference was hard on them, but once they visited with their wife, husband, or kids, you could tell it meant the world to them.” 

Ironically, as service members return home, they may find themselves longing for some of the traditions made while serving together abroad.

“I remember spending my first Christmas back home. I was calling my military friends inviting them over to cook with me and my parents who had come down to visit,” said DAV Assistant National Employment Director Ryan Burgos, who served as an ammunition specialist in the Army during Operation Enduring Freedom. 

Not all who served are able to reconnect with other veterans, or even their family and friends, when they return home. 

Burgos offers some good advice for those seeking to include veterans who may feel lonely or isolated during the holidays.

“If you know of someone who has recently come back from being deployed or who has recently separated from service, just talk to them. You never know what they may be going through,” he said. “Or maybe you know a veteran or veteran’s spouse who is spending Thanksgiving or Christmas alone for the first time,” said Burgos. “Ask them, ‘Hey, you wanna come over for dinner and hang out for a while?’ Sometimes that's all they need.”

It’s this same spirit of camaraderie that can be found year-round among DAV’s more than 1 million members across the country. 

“DAV has the opportunity to engage returning service members with the hope of the holidays after their time away,” said DAV National Membership Director Douglas Wells. “With over 1,200 local chapters, our chapter service officers and other local DAV leaders stand at the ready to welcome them into our community of veterans.” 

“Thanks to our generous supporters, we are actively working to ensure that our fellow veterans and their families have access to the resources they need through the holidays and beyond,” said DAV CEO and National Adjutant Marc Burgess.

Your gift during the holidays goes a long way in keeping the promise to America’s veterans. Every dollar donated delivers $179 in benefits to our veterans. Give your gift today at

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