Special Note: Samantha Wagner sent me this article before she passed away from an embolism just hours after childbirth. You may have seen a post on our Facebook page about Samantha’s sudden passing. If you would like to support her active duty Marine and their two children, four year old Evie and newborn baby Remington, you may send your condolences on behalf of the family to Katie Wagner, 3750 N Blue Lake Road, Churubusco, IN 46723. It is our honor to publish this article posthumously on her behalf.
Deployments that take place over the holidays always seem, at least to me, to be even more difficult than the ones that don’t. Lovey-dovey Christmas songs and holiday cheer somehow make the absence of your deployed Marine even more painful. However, I think we, as military spouses, can easily overlook how difficult it must be to be the one deployed during the holidays.
I have my children and my family to sit around the Christmas tree with me, where my deployed husband does not. Having a few holiday deployments already under my belt, I’d like to share some of my favorite ways to send a bit of holiday spirit and cheer overseas to your deployed loved one. These are just a few ideas, as the list could go on forever! It’s easy to get the kids and other family members involved with these Christmas Care packages too!
- One of my favorite tricks is sending snow! Being from Indiana, my husband and I feel that Christmas just isn’t the same without a bit of the fluffy white stuff! As you can imagine, you’re not going to be able to package up any of the real stuff, but it is fun to fake it! Cut out a bag full of paper snowflakes (complete with glitter if you’d like) of all shapes and sizes, and send them overseas! My husband loved this so much that he kept a few of his favorites from the first holiday deployment and brought them home with him. We hang those on our Christmas tree every year, whether he is home or not!
- Of Course, Christmas cookies are a must! Here’s what I’ve learned: Some cookies travel better than others. Chocolate chip cookies don’t like to be mailed to Afghanistan and Iraq, for instance, but sugar and gingerbread cookies usually do pretty well. Bake a big batch with your kids, decorate them, and send them on their way! I’ve found that wrapping cookies in wax paper (with wax paper in between each cookie) followed by a couple of layers of plastic wrap helps a lot., and sending them in an actual tin instead of a plastic container really does help keep them fresh. Also, be sure the cookies aren’t rolling around in the tin. If you need to add some packing peanuts or extra plastic wrap to keep them sturdy, do so! Then just put the whole tin in a shipping box and mail them out!
- Stocking Stuffers make for fun times! These can be loads of fun for your husband and the rest of the unit! During my husband’s first Christmas deployment, I went to the dollar tree and stocked up on candy (the kind that won’t melt) and all those fun little stocking stuffer toys! My husband’s favorite of the stocking stuffers were little Santa parachute men. He and his buddies had a blast throwing them off the roof of their compound during that first deployment, and I had a big smile on my face all season knowing he enjoyed it!
- Buy a little Christmas tree (try the dollar stores), decorate it with handmade or cheap ornaments, and wrap it with a little battery-powered strand of lights. What’s Christmas without a tree, right?
- Christmas cards are always welcome! Hallmark makes great new cards that you can record your own voices in. Have your kids (or yourself) record a special holiday message or sing a song on it before you send it!
- Send the smell of the season! Throw a bag of cinnamon pine cones or cinnamon sticks in your care package. Even better, make some cinnamon ornaments with your kids and put them in the care package to bring the smell of holiday cooking to your husband. (Do not send the cinnamon sticks/ornaments in with the same shipment as the cookies or all his cookies will taste like cinnamon).
- Pictures of course, and video if it’s possible (depending on the deployment), are some of the best ways to make your deployed one feel connected from so far away. Many bases offer free photos with Santa for the little ones, so hop on into the PX, and get a free photo to send to Daddy!
- Make a copy of your kids’ letter to Santa and send it (secretly, of course) to Daddy. When we did this, we were able to let Daddy be Santa and write a letter back! I simply removed it from the envelope he sent it in and placed it in a more secret-Santa type envelope before giving it to the kids.
- Never forget the age-old art of handwriting a letter. Handwriting a personal letter to your husband from just yourself might be exactly what he needs to put a Christmas smile on his face.
Note: It takes a while for mail to arrive during most deployments. Ideally, sending your packages as early as you possible will help them to arrive on time for Christmas. You can always ask your local postal office or UPS store for estimated arrival times. The Family Readiness Officer for your husband’s unit might also have information on the last date to send packages/letters in order for them to arrive by Christmas, so don’t be afraid to ask! We usually send our packages at the beginning of November, but absolutely no later than Thanksgiving!
There are so many creative ways to send love and Christmas cheer to your deployed spouse. It will never be as good as being home for Christmas, but it might help a little. So, use your imagination, get creative and festive, and send your Marine some Christmas spirit this year!
I am Samantha’s mother and I just want to say to all who read her blogs…She was the perfect person to write these blogs for this website. She was an amazing mom, daughter, homemaker, sister and military spouse who loved and supported her husband so very much! She ALWAYS wanted to be a writer! And Sam usually worked very hard to get what she wanted! She was organized, honest, loving, hard-working, stubborn, opinionated, and my very best friend in the whole world. I miss her so very much. We lost our 17 year-old son in a car accident 3 1/2 years ago and Samantha was my rock as well as my shoulder to cry on. She memorialized her little brother in so many great ways. The pictures she collected and made sure Everyone knew him and loved him as much as we did!
Her favorite time of the year was winter and Christmas! It had to be magical every year! Her daughter was born in December in 2008(the day before her own birthday) and I remember her being so worried about the possibility of not being able to come home in time for Christmas, But it all worked out and it was an amazing Christmas with the whole family. Unfortunately, it was the last one we had as a family. We have had many more great memories since then, but there has been a hole in our lives. Now the hole has become sooo much larger. But we must continue as she would want us to and make sure her beautiful children get the love and stability that she always provided. (Which will be very difficult to do without her). She was probably just about as close to a perfect mother as anyone would ever meet!
I hope that some day in the future, her children will be able to see one of her books in a library or a book store. My main purpose in my life now is to make sure her children know everything there is to know about their mommy.
Thank you to all who have supported her family through this trying time. I just want everyone to know what an wonderful person she was!
I would like to say i have read many of Samantha’s blogs but i haven’t. I just recently became a USMC mom. well actually not quite yet. My son shipped out to Parris Island a week ago and i have been sad thinking that he wont be home for christmas. After reading this one blog i have and how quickly her life ended I would like to say that I am sorry for the great loss of what seems to be an almost perfect woman as her mom said. I also want to add that I will keep your family and grandchildren in my thoughts over the holidays and you know everyday i start to feel sorry that my sons away.I really dont know what to say other than again i am truly sorry for such a huge loss you must go through again with your family. I have copied this article for future reference when my son is or may be deployed. Of course not now during basic training. I have experienced in my life the grief process to many times. One being my sons father when he was 7 and he is now 19 and close to becoming a Marine. Grief is the hardest i have ever had to go through the process i wish could be sometimes put on hold for the little ones or changes to go through faster. either way may you all find your own grief process to be helpful and carry it on to the children whenever and always they will need you. I hope i have no rambled to much i know the pain is real and raw. thank you Cathy for sharing so much about your daughter, Just reading one blog i feel as i know her. I would be interested in reading any and all of her writings/blogs that you would want to share with me. my email is firstname.lastname@example.org
My thoughts and prayers are with you all and may you find some how to have a little happiness for the little ones and yourself this holiday season.
Family and readers, I am a friend of Sam’s. We met through our husbands, who worked together and deployed together. Though our friendship was mostly virtual due to distance in duty stations, we had many things in common and some things not so much, but in the latter she inspired me in many ways. She was extremely intelligent, a wonderfully involved mother, artistic and crafty and utterly down to earth. Sam introduced USMC Life to me in 2010. As an onlooker into her world, I was so proud of her for being published for many to read, but moreover I could continue to learn from her as she provided great insight to this military life.
Some influence she had on me:
Thanksgiving had always been my favorite holiday to celebrate but I genuinely believe after observing Sam’s display of love for the season over the years, she had led me to embrace every aspect of the winter. Her love for winter and Christmas had grew inside me and now Thanksgiving is only the prelude to a wonderful season.
When I heard the news in 2012, I was devastated. Not Sam. She was preparing to have their baby boy and gearing up for her favorite season and life was moving favorably, and then she was just gone. I think about Sam quite a lot and often at random times. She had such an absolute presence that her absence is genuinely felt by all who knew her. The mutual friends that we share, feel the same.
As I mentioned before, Sam introduced me to USMC Life but what I hadn’t mentioned is, in 2013, 7 months after she passed I began working for USMC Life. I believe God had his hand in that with the help of an angel and continues to use this angel in my life which is why think of her often. Now I sit here, almost 2 years after she has passed and I am on recruiting with my husband, as was she. I work for USMC Life, as did she. And I am gearing up for a season that was her favorite which she moved me to embrace. Her presence surrounds me.
More strangely, I have made a new military spouse friend while on recruiting duty and her husband works with mine as a recruiter. Her name is, Sam.
Miss you, Sam. XO