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Separation often factor on holidays for military families
In honor of Thanksgiving, the Yuma Sun is spotlighting those who work to protect our community. This story is the last in a series called Families Give Thanks.
Thanksgiving is traditionally a holiday where family and friends get together to share a wonderfully prepared meal and watch football on television.
However, for military families, this isn't always possible due to deployments or being assigned to duty stations that are thousands of miles away from their loved ones.
“It's part of the military way of life and you just have to get used to it,” said Cpl. Justin Bopp, a combat cameraman with Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1). “Fortunately for us, we haven't had to deal with being deployed while assigned to Marine Corps Air Station Yuma. However, that is always a really big factor at bases on the East and West coasts, where the most of the deploying units are at.”
His wife, Jolene Bopp, who served as a corporal at MCAS Yuma's public affairs office, said while she and her husband are thankful they have been able go home a lot over the past few years, it hasn't always been for the holidays.
“We try to go home as often as possible, but it often comes down to whether we can afford it,” Jolene said. “Both of our families are in the middle of the country (Texas and Minnesota) instead of on the coast.”
Justin added, “Because our loved ones are so far away, usually all we have for the holiday is our immediate family of myself, Miya (their daughter) and Jolene. It's not, like, let's go to Grandma's house for the weekend, because we can't really do that.”
There have been times, however, that Jolene said she has had to go back home to spend the holidays with her family without her husband because he couldn't get the time off work. They are thankful that they do have one family member close by, with Jolene's sister who lives in Phoenix.
The Bopps said while they aren't going anywhere for Thanksgiving this year, they do plan to spend Christmas with family in Texas.
“Fortunately we planned ahead. We knew I would be getting out this year,” Jolene said. “It does kind of stink that we are down to one income now as opposed to two.”
For many Marines, the holiday season can be a lonely and stressful time, which is why the Bopps say they open their home up to fellow Marines. While it's not the same as being back home with their families, the Bopps said, at least those Marines aren't alone.
“They are part of our family,” Justin said. “They may not be blood relatives, but they are our Marine Corps family.”
“We have people over as often as possible,” said Jolene. “A couple of our buddies just walk right in and say, ‘Hey, we are here.' And we are, like, ‘All right.'”
The Bopps said they also realize Thanksgiving is just as rough on the families who have loved ones who serve because of an empty seat at their table. They say they hope sharing their home for the holidays with those Marines will help put their families at ease knowing that their loved ones are at least spending time with others who care for them also.
Jolene said when she worked at the air station's public affairs office, they would get calls every Thanksgiving from members of the community inviting young Marines who weren't able to go home for the holiday to come over to their homes for a Thanksgiving dinner.
“Even when someone is out of the military, that camaraderie still exists,” Jolene said. “It's about knowing that guys are there for each other, no matter what.”
James Gilbert can be reached at email@example.com or 539-6854. Find him on Facebook at www.Facebook.com/YSJamesGilbert or on Twitter @YSJamesGilbert.