Christmas difficult for 711 families

Published 1:21 am Wednesday, December 8, 2004

By By Arthur McLean
Christmas will be different this year for the families of troops serving overseas. Last Christmas, the families of Atmore troops serving with the 711th Signal Battalion spent their Christmas cherishing what time they had left before their loved ones went overseas in the fight against terrorism.
This year, those same families are dealing with the holidays missing one important member of the family, often a mother or father, now serving in Iraq as a part of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Of course it's difficult," said Linda Gates, whose husband Billy is serving in Iraq. "A lot of families here have children and it's hard on them." Gates serves with the family relief group helping the families of reserve soldiers serving overseas.
"We (Linda and Billy Gates) have been together 35 years, and this is our first Christmas apart," Gates said. "My son is 15, and it's been hard on him, but not as hard as families with younger children."
For many families, the big decision can be whether to carry on with the holiday celebration or wait. "No matter what anyone does, it's different, Christmas was always our main holiday. We going to wait, but Billy said to go on and have Christmas, we'll probably have something special when he gets home."
While this Christmas season my be a difficult one for the families of the 711th soldiers, it also marks a time when they are that much closer to reunion with their loved ones. While no guarantees have been given, Gates said she has heard the battalion is expected to return in the spring. "At least we know we're on the downward swing now," Gates said.
See the info box on page one for how you can send Christmas packages and greeting to the troops in Iraq. For more ways you can send a little Christmas cheer overseas, turn to page 16 and read Cong. Joe Bonner's column.

Sign up for our daily email newsletter

Get the latest news sent to your inbox