Away for the holidays
For some military families, Christmas can be a heart-wrenching time. Several area families count themselves among many around the country who will not be united with loved ones this season.
(Andrew and Robyn Cobb - members of Marineparents.com included in article)
By Elizabeth York
Odessans Juan and Maria Salcido are preparing to spend Christmas without their youngest son, Juan Jr.
Juan Jr. is a Marine stationed with the Delta Company in Iraq. At 20, he has been in the U.S. Marine Corps for about two years.
Maria Salcido said her fifth child has been in both Iraq and Kuwait since August. Salcido said this will be the family’s first Christmas with her son away.
The Salcidos will spend Christmas in Odessa with two of their five children.
“I haven’t even had the Christmas spirit (this year),” Salcido said. “We have to try to keep going—life goes on, but we’re constantly thinking about him,” Salcido said.
Juan Jr. has called often to check on his father who recently had open-heart surgery, Salcido said.
“He lets us know that he reminisces on old times just to keep going,” Salcido said.
Salcido said she depends on her faith in God and pleasant memories of her son to get through the pain of separation.
“We just pray a lot together,” Salcido said. “I do have some tears, of course.”
Salcido said Juan Jr. told her he is serving in the Middle East to help others who cannot help themselves.
“He is proud to be an American. He is proud to be a Marine,” Salcido said. “We’re hoping for the best that he’ll come home soon and safely.”
Midlanders Andrew and Robyn Cobb will miss their eldest son, Matthew, this Christmas.
It is the family’s second Christmas with Matthew away. In 2004, Matthew was in the Marines boot camp in San Diego. He is currently in a weapons company in Iraq.
The Cobbs will celebrate Christmas with their other children, Brandon and Andra, in Midland and in the hill country.
Andrew Cobb said the family’s joy will be incomplete without Matthew.
“A part of your family is missing,” Cobb said. “You can celebrate, but you can’t celebrate completely.”
Cobb said the family sent Matthew a gift package with items like DVDs, breakfast foods and a battery-operated razor. The family is also planning to send food supplies like canned chicken and cheese to Matthew’s 3/1 company for a “Super Bowl weapons taco night.”
While the Cobbs are supporting their son, they find support through relationships with other military families. Andrew Cobb said he especially appreciates the Website marineparents.com, where he can post messages and hear from other parents.
Cobb said the family continues to pray for Matthew.
“For those young men to give and sacrifice, I just can’t tell you how proud I am,” Cobb said.
Phyllis Hanson of Midland is also preparing to spend her second consecutive Christmas without her eldest son, Matt.
Matt, 24, is stationed in Camp Lejeune, N.C. He joined the Marines about four years ago and spent Christmas 2004 in Iraq.
Hanson said she expected her son to return home this year. Instead, he must stay in North Carolina where he is training with an artillery battery, Hanson said.
“When he called and said he probably wasn’t going to get to come home for Christmas, I was disappointed,” Hanson said. “And I think he was more disappointed.”
Hanson will spend Christmas in Midland with her husband, Steve, and youngest son, Peter.
In February, Matt will come home for good. After not seeing her son for more than a year, Hanson said that she looks forward to their reunion.
“I’m ready to have him home,” she said.
Jose L. Garcia of Midland is a sergeant in the Marines. Garcia left for western Iraq in September of 2004 and spent seven-and-a-half months away from his wife, Hope, and children Joseph, 11, Brianna, 7, and Marissa, 4.
Jose understands what it is like to be away from loved ones at Christmastime.
“It was pretty tough, because it was my first time to be away for the holidays,” Jose said of Christmas 2004.
Jose said he could not even spend a full day observing the holiday.
“You can’t pause and take a whole day or a week off,” Jose said.
The Marines received a Christmas meal and many people sent them cards, packages and gifts, Jose said. The best Christmas present for Jose, however, was knowing how proud his family was.
“(Hope) knew it was what I had to do,” Jose said. “I would talk to her on a regular basis through phone and e-mail. The family was very supportive.”
Hope Garcia said spending Christmas without her husband was extremely difficult.
“Not just Christmas, but every day was hard,” Hope said. “Especially because we have kids. It’s hard to make them understand.”
The Garcias will spend this Christmas with family in Abilene and Anson, Hope said. Her family is more complete with Jose home, she said.
“We’re very happy to have him home,” Hope said.