While many families are making plans to be with their loved ones over the holidays, families who have a mom, or dad, deployed in service to the country are making plans to celebrate without them. Recognizing the sacrifices made by these families, the American Legion Auxiliary in Peoria treated 20 Luke Air Force Base “deployed-families” to a trip through Illumination Symphony of Light, a drive-thru light show synchronized to music in north Phoenix. Included in the event was VIP treatment following the light display.
Shayna Walker, whose husband is deployed to the Middle East, attended with her four children, Zak (age 9), Lukas (age 7), Kaleb (age 5) and Allie-May (nearly 2). Her husband, Dustin, is a member of the Luke AFB 56th Security Forces Squadron and is expected to be deployed until May 2018. When asked about the difficulties of being the only parent on the home front, Walker quickly turned the conversation to the hardship on her children.
“I have to admit that while I ‘signed-up’ to be a military mom, I really had no idea what that meant,” she said. “But besides what all that entails, I was not prepared for the guilt I would experience about the impact on my children.”
Walker explained that while technology enables communication with Dustin, the time zone difference makes quality time between him and the kids an activity that can only occur on weekends. She sets up the video-chat in her bedroom and each child gets 20 minutes alone with Dad each week.
“As the parent at home, I deal with episodes of anger, tears and confusion, depending on the child and the circumstances. Allie-Mae has been known to call out ‘a da’ to any man who walks by. It’s heart-breaking at times,” she said.
Master Sergeant Drew from the Family Readiness Group at Luke Air Force Base and his family lead the stream of cars through the light show after throwing the “giant switch” turning on the lights and music. Family members sang along with the Christmas carols as they viewed both the holiday and patriotic light displays. The Auxiliary’s nearly 50 guests assembled after the drive-thru for a hot chocolate buffet complete with “glow toys,” giant candy canes and sugar cookies. While older kids explored the bounce houses and interactive kiosks, adults amiably alternated between following them and socializing with the other parents. Meanwhile, Allie-May Walker alternated between the sugar cookies and the giant candy canes.
American Legion Auxiliary members have dedicated themselves for nearly a century to meeting the needs of our nation’s veterans, military, and their families both here and abroad. They volunteer millions of hours yearly, with a value averaging $2 billion each year. As part of the world’s largest women’s patriotic service organization, ALA volunteers across the country also step up to honor veterans and military through annual scholarships and with ALA Girls State programs, teaching high school juniors to be leaders grounded in patriotism and Americanism.
The John J Morris American Legion Auxiliary Unit in Peoria has been awarded the top national Auxiliary award for its efforts in meeting the local needs of active military, veterans, families and youth. To learn more about the Auxiliary’s mission or to volunteer, donate, join or partner with the Auxiliary, visit www.AZPost62.com/ALA, or email them at ALAunit62AZ@gmail.com.