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YPG family gets unexpected holiday together
In honor of Thanksgiving, the Yuma Sun is spotlighting those who work to protect our community. This story is one in a series called Families Give Thanks.
This year Shannon Prager is thankful she will be able to spend Thanksgiving with her husband, Staff Sgt. Matthew Prager, who serves with the Airborne Test Force at Yuma Proving Ground.
“We didn't think he was going to be here,” she said. He was supposed to deploy to Afghanistan. “I had planned on him not being here for Thanksgiving and Christmas, so for me to be able to spend the holidays with him, at least this year, is a gift. You never know if he is still going to have to go later on. We are making the most of it while we can.”
Matthew knows he might not be able to spend the holiday season with his family in coming years.
“It's always hard being away for the holidays. You have the family all together, and ... it is definitely easier when I am there to help out when the kids are all out of school. Any help that I can give my wife usually helps out.”
The couple have five children living at home, ages 10, 8, and 4, and twin 6-year-olds.
“It seems like they were just in diapers yesterday,” their father said, “and I can imagine them going to high school next week, is what it feels like. While I am here, I am making the most of it because they are growing up so fast. Getting to spend any time with my family is great.”
Shannon is no stranger to spending holidays without her husband.
“It is stressful because it is hard being both parents. I feel like I have to do more to make up for him not being here. I also get in the mind frame that he's gone and that's his job.
“I can't be upset about it. I knew about it when I married him, that he was going to have to be gone and I was going to have to be a single parent at times.”
Matthew is also thankful he will be able to spend this Thanksgiving with his parents, who will travel to YPG.
“My father had a car accident a couple years back, and mother just had a heart attack last week. She is back home now, but I am definitely thankful to still have them in our lives.”
When Matthew is deployed during the holidays, he does the best he can to keep in touch.
“The letters are always really good,” he said. “The kids draw pictures and send them in care packages. Stuff like that I really look forward to.”
While away from his family on Thanksgiving, Matthew and the other soldiers “go to the chow hall and have our Thanksgiving dinner there, but its really not the same without everyone's family.”
It can be depressing spending the holidays away from loved ones, “but the Army being close-knit, and your unit being close-knit, at least you have your brothers in arms there with you to lift you up and to keep your spirits high. You share pictures and different conversations you had with your friends and family back home.”
The absence makes him appreciate his family even more when he is home.
“Whenever something is gone, you definitely realize what you are missing. Having it back, you don't want to take those times for granted.”
Chris McDaniel can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6849.