CADILLAC — For Sean Wood and Tyler Lung, the holidays will be extra special this year.
Wood and Lung are part of the Cadillac-based Michigan Army National Guard Unit, Delta Company 3-126 Infantry Regiment, and early next year, they will be deployed to the Middle East.
Wood, 30, has been through this before, having been deployed overseas several times, departing his wife, Cynthia, and their children.
“I’m a ball of emotions right now,‘ Wood said. “With the anticipation of getting deployed. One minute you’re hunky-dory and the next ... I’m just anxious to get it over with.‘
Lung’s experience, on the other hand, is a little different. As a 20-year-old bachelor without children who has yet to be deployed, Long doesn’t have the concerns that someone with a family might have as they prepare to go overseas.
“I don’t really know what to expect," Lung said. “Overall, I’m excited. I know that’s easy for me to say though, compared to those with families.‘
Wood agreed that the younger soldiers might look at things from a different perspective than those with kids ... they may look at the whole thing as more of an adventure and with less anxiety about the potential dangers.
“The married soldiers might be a little more cautious in what they do," Wood said.
Leaving for deployment around the holidays is especially tough, Wood said.
“I’m struggling to explain it," he said. “You want Christmas to be filled with joy but it’s happy and sad. Ultimately, you just have to spend as much time with your families as you can. Enjoy it."
Cynthia is president of the Family Readiness Group, which is comprised of the spouses of soldiers in the National Guard unit, as well as others in the community who wish to support the unit.
Every year, the group helps organize a Christmas party for the unit at the armory in Cadillac; with the upcoming deployment, this year’s party has taken on a special significance.
“This Christmas will be the last major holiday families will enjoy together prior to their separation starting in March,‘ Cynthia said.
In preparation for the party on Saturday, Dec. 7, Cynthia said they are collecting gifts, which will be presented to every service member who is scheduled for deployment, along with their family members. Soldiers in the Cadillac unit are from around Michigan, not just the immediate Cadillac area, Cynthia said.
As someone who understands the challenges soldiers on deployment face, Wood said items from home are a huge benefit and can help make the time go faster.
“Ultimately, deployment is what you make it," Wood said. “If you make yourself miserable, it’s going to be a miserable deployment.‘
Cynthia and other FRG members have a good start on collecting gifts but would gladly accept any assistance offered by the community.
She said they are collecting a variety of items but some of the best gifts are “little forms of entertainment." An example of this is a waterproof blue tooth speaker. “Just keep in mind it has to be small,‘ Cynthia said. “Basically, things people take for granted."
In addition to items the soldiers can take with them on deployment, Cynthia said gifts the whole family can enjoy also are appreciated.
Ideas include personal hygiene products, movie night vouchers, gift certificates, coolers and items for around the house.
Ultimately, Cynthia said their goal is to send the soldiers off with a feeling of love and support from back home.
“We want to make sure everyone feels that sense of community behind them," she said.
Anyone interested in making a donation for the upcoming party can contact the Cadillac National Guard Armory at (231) 775-7222.
Although the community is welcomed to donate, only soldiers and their families will be invited to the party.