With sons in the service, the Wido family of Canandaigua has a hard time fully celebrating the season.
Don’t expect to see many presents under the tree at the Wido house on Arlington Park in Canandaigua. Oh, Santa might leave a few items for the youngest — Ann and Noel’s 2-year-old grandson, Noel Edward Wido. But thinking about gifts this year just isn’t on the radar.
Ann and Noel and their three sons — Peter, 26, and twins Mark and Matt, 24 — haven’t spent a Christmas together since 2002. With the war in Iraq raging, and all three sons in the military, the past five Christmases have been a little less cheerful.
“It’s a terrible feeling. It makes you feel uneasy to celebrate when someone in the family is in harm’s way,” said Noel, a Marine Corps veteran whose son, Pete, took after his dad and joined the Marines.
That changes tomorrow, when the family will celebrate Christmas under one roof for the first time in five years.
Mark, the last of the trio to arrive home, was greeted by friends and family at the Rochester International Airport on Friday. There were ceremonies — such as signing an honorary flag — and, for Ann, a few tears. Now the agenda consists mostly of family time.
Pete, a biochemist who lives in Henrietta, joined the military after his younger brothers went into the Army. He confesses he felt a little competitive and thought joining the Marines might one-up them. Turns out, his service overseas — so far — has been fairly uneventful, compared to his brothers’.
“I volunteered for Iraq, but they sent me to Africa,” said Pete, a rifleman who served six months in Djibouti. His job was guarding the region from terrorists coming across the border from Somalia. He didn’t see much action, he said.
Not so for his brothers. Matt was with the 101st Airborne, the spearhead in the invasion of Iraq at the start of the war.
“It got pretty nasty,” said Matt, who served seven months during his first tour in 2003. He was called up again in 2005 and served an additional 11-month tour. Matt left July 10, 2005, for six months of training before deployment, leaving behind his wife, Diane, and newborn son, Noel Edward.
“You just keep going,” he said, describinghow he got through the time away from his family.
Mark, a paratrooper, served in Iraq from October 2006 to last month, when he returned to Fort Richardson, Alaska. Before arriving home for Christmas on Friday, Mark recalled in an e-mail how he spent last Christmas. He was on “main-gate guard duty” for 12 hours, he said. As for the chow, it was “cold chicken strips” for lunch, and dinner was “a plate of meat,” identity unknown, he said. He and his squad did a secret gift swap after hours, he said.
“It was cheesy and dumb,” he recalled, but that’s “what made our Christmas.”
This year, Mark and his brothers will tuck in to their dad’s famous turkey with its sausage dressing — a family favorite.
Ann said she anticipates her sons will hang around during the preparation, probably putting in their two cents and snitching samples before the bird makes it to the dinner table.
Ann said she expects Mark will want to do a lot of catching up on sleep while he is home, and enjoy some quiet time away from the stresses of military life.
But not before they put in some much-needed male-bonding time, said Pete.
“We hope we can go out, have a few drinks together, eat some chicken wings,” he said.
Contact Julie Sherwood at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 263, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.