Troops Spend Thanksgiving Away from Home

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Instead, Tomkins, company commander for Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 1st Battalion, 506th Infantry Regiment, will spend his morning at a forward operating base in Afghanistan, helping to refurbish a school in a nearby village. But to Tomkins, each missed holiday is a sacrifice he's happy to make.

"It stinks being away from your family on holidays," Tomkins admitted. "But honestly, I just think of all the wonderful things that I am thankful for and how lucky and blessed I am.

"People would not be able to enjoy holidays without people making sacrifices," he added. "That is what helps me get through."

Tomkins is one of the thousands of servicemembers who will be spending their Thanksgiving in a combat zone, far from family and friends. And for most, after a nearly a decade of war, this holiday will be far from the first they've missed.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Wayne Scarpulla is on his fifth deployment in 12 years. He has missed so many holidays that he considers it a gift when he can be home for one.

"My family has learned to adjust to time away, especially during the holiday months," said Scarpulla, who is serving with the 1st Squadron, 61st Cavalry Regiment on Forward Operating Base Connolly, Afghanistan.

"It is a treat when we are all together ... but even the family understands that the mission is important and remains very supportive when I am absent," he said.

Like Tomkins, Scarpulla will forgo his typical Thanksgiving celebration spent at home with family and friends, including his wife and two children. Tomorrow, he'll carry out his day-to-day mission. But he hopes, before the day ends, to be able to enjoy dinner with his soldiers and call his family. He also plans to give thanks to his comrades, he said, who "continue to sacrifice their safety for the better good."

Army Spc. Seth Oldre, who's deployed to Afghanistan's Paktika province, is making an added sacrifice. He'll not only miss the holidays, but the birth of his second child, who is due the day after Thanksgiving.

"I just want [my wife] to know that I am here for her and our kids for the rest of our lives, and we can make it through this holiday," he said.

Oldre was deployed during the holidays last year too.

"That year was very tough because I missed my daughter's first holidays, and ... it took a toll on me and my wife as well," he said.

This year, Oldre will spend the day working and eating dinner with his comrades. "I'll also be waiting for the call of my son being born," he said.

Over in Iraq, Army Staff Sgt. Treva Quebedeaux feels thankful that her Thanksgiving holiday will include a loved one. She's spending Thanksgiving with her husband, Army Cpl. Thomas Guy, who also is deployed. He's stationed less than 15 miles away, but the distance often "seems more like 15,000" miles," she said.

The couple, she said, will celebrate their first anniversary in Iraq on Dec. 6.

Essentially, we've spent our entire first year of wedded bliss in Iraq," Quebedeaux said. "The plus side: not many couples are able to say that they honeymooned in a combat zone."

Quebedeaux and her husband plan to call both of their families on Thanksgiving. And although grateful to be together, she said, they'll still miss being at their large family celebrations back home.

Typically Quebedeaux's grandmother's home is packed with family and friends, the scent of home-cooking filling the air from early in the morning.

After an early feast, "I usually spend most of Thanksgiving afternoon trying to hide from my little cousins, nephews and various neighborhood children so that I am not roped into playing flag football all afternoon," she said. "But now that it's not an option, I wish that it were."

(Editor's Note: Oldre's wife gave birth a few days early to a healthy boy, Milo Gary Oldre, on Nov. 22.)