The Ottumwa Courier

833rd Engineer Company

December 23, 2007

Christmas can be lonely for families of deployed soldiers

A tough holiday season for 833rd families

FREMONT — Some years, Denise Day’s Christmas tree has multi-colored lights. One year, she tried all white. But with the second deployment of the 833rd Engineer Company, she did the tree up in all blue lights.

“When the boys are gone, it’s like the song says. A blue Christmas,” she said over the weekend.

The “boys” are both of her daughters’ husbands, one stationed in Ft. Riley, Kan. and the other serving with the Iowa National Guard’s 833rd out of Ottumwa. Though with different units, both sons-in-law are currently in Iraq.

“My mom’s pretty much been my rock through both deployments,” said Elizabeth Mason, 23, of Ottumwa.

She and her husband, Sgt. Robert Mason Jr., 26, have one little boy.

“[Mom] helps me so much with Robby,” she said.

Grandma and the 4-year-old were at playing a computer game at Day’s Fremont home. Robby spends time at Day’s when Elizabeth is at work.

The holidays are especially tough for 833rd families, Elizabeth said.

When Robert Mason Jr. returned from Iraq the first time, the couple moved out of their apartment and into a real house.

“This was going to be the first Christmas together in our new house. We were going to decorate, put up a real tree. But this has put a damper on that,” she said. “It’s hard. Really hard.”

Thinking about Christmas without her husband seemed daunting.

“I got pretty ‘bah humbug.’ I wasn’t even going to put up a tree. But my mom kicked me in the butt and said, ‘You have a 4-year-old!’ We put up the half-size [artificial] tree from our apartment. I put up some lights, and Robby helped me decorate.”

Though Day did have to give her daughter a little push, she understands the feelings.

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833rd Engineer Company
AP National