Military families often celebrate holidays in creative (and even unconventional) ways! In the spirit of the holiday season, we asked service members, veterans, and military families about their #MilitaryFamilyHolidays and traditions. We hope sharing these ideas might inspire other military families to make the most of the holidays and encourage civilians to find ways to support their military community during the season of giving.
As part of her military family’s holidays, MaryBeth, a veteran spouse, pulls off a holiday prank each year. She says, “Twenty-five years of Air Force life and 18 years of the Army BRAT lifestyle have taught me that the holidays are truly what you make of them. For so many years I attempted to make the holidays perfect – the perfect tree, the perfect house, the perfect card…that lead to the perfect stressed-out holiday.”
“While stationed in Minot, North Dakota our friends taught me perfection was not all it’s cracked up to be,” says MaryBeth. “They found out about my ‘love’ of inflatable lawn decor. So, every night in December they added one more inflatable to our lawn. It was so ridiculous that we were even ticketed by the base housing office! However, it taught me a valuable lesson – I will take laughter over perfection every holiday season!”
This playful, yet meaningful experience gave MaryBeth an idea. She continues, “The Goodman family adopted a Merry Pranksmas tradition that brings a smile and a nod to the beauty of imperfection. Every year we take our favorite inflatable and share it with a neighbor who needs some joy!”
“Saying” It Forward
Sharing words of support is another way our military community marks the holidays. Anne, Army veteran, celebrates her military family holidays by “saying” it forward. She shares, “I have a box of blank handmade holiday cards that were shipped to us on our first and second deployments [as a means to write home or send holiday greetings to other service members]. I am still using the last of the cards as my own Christmas cards to send to other veterans and friends each year.”
“When I write to folks using these cards, I look on the back of them to see where it was made and by whom,” adds Anne. “It is a reminder of a pretty challenging time in my life, but where people were so unified, supportive, and giving to me and our whole unit [during OEF].”
Mike, a Navy veteran, celebrates through recognition. He says, “My brother and I, who are both war veterans, take the time on Christmas Eve to reflect on those who are unable to be home with their families. We reach out to our brothers and sisters who are still in the service and extend our thoughts, prayers and well wishes.”
How can you support military families this holiday season? Here are three ways to give back to your military community:
- Include military families in your holiday events. Military families relocate three times as often as civilian families so they may not have loved ones near during the holiday season. Invite them to a community event, dinner, or even drop off a holiday treat to let them know they have a support system around them. According to a 2021 survey by Cohen Veterans Network, sixty-seven percent of veterans think it is important that civilians understand military families serve too. So, knowing their families are taken care of during the holiday season is the perfect way to give back!
- Learn more about what it means to serve. Take our Military 101 Pop Quiz to test your knowledge, gain a better understanding of the military community, and explore how to connect with veterans more meaningfully.
- Give back. Buying a veteran a meal, participating in a collection drive, or donating to an organization that helps service members, veterans, and their families is a wonderful way to give back directly. Look for reputable organizations to support in your community, like one of our 23 Cohen Clinics providing accessible, high-quality mental health care to veteran and military families nationwide (cohenveteransnetwork.org/donate).
By Marie Mikols, Marketing and Social Media Coordinator