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Committed to caring in CAF: How a military family has thrived through 20 holiday seasons

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Scott T. Sturkol
  • Air Mobility Command Public Affairs
In December 1991, I was in love. Though I was three months from joining the Air Force and only dating her for a month, I somehow knew that Bobbi Habersetzer was going to be my wife some day.

That "some day" did come in May 1992 while I was in technical school at Fort Harrison, Ind., but it was the holiday season in 1991 that set the foundation for the next 20 years. Yes, we are approaching two decades as a husband and wife, but more importantly as a family.

Twenty years ago, Bobbi and I went out and cut our first Christmas tree together. We walked through thigh-high Michigan snow to get it, but we got a nice one. We decorated it, along with daughter Holly, and proceeded to have a most wonderful holiday season. The following year, we were married and living half a world away on an island in the Atlantic Ocean and expecting our first child together as a couple. We had another great holiday season and Ivy was born the next spring.

After a couple of years at Lajes Field, Azores, we moved to Mountain Home AFB, Idaho, where we would spend the next five years. While there, we added two more children to our family -- Macy and Jackson. From Mountain Home went to Grand Forks AFB, N.D., for six years; Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst for four years and now Scott AFB for over two years.

Through all the years and all the assignments, our family holiday seasons have seen their challenges. For instance, in 2004 and 2009, I missed Christmas all together because I left for a deployment.

Other times, we'd go back to our hometown and celebrate the holidays with family and friends or we would stay back at base. But no matter what was going on, we made a point to be consistent for the children and for each other in remembering it's not about the gifts but about the importance of family. In other words, we always made the best of it.

Bobbi told me a story of a friend of hers asking how she and I have had a successful, and happy, marriage for so long. Her answer to this friend was simple, "Stay committed to each other and your family and there is nothing that can hold you back." I totally agree but also may add from a husband's point of view, "Happy wife - happy life."

Whether it's been through holidays such as Thanksgiving or Christmas, or through family birthdays and wedding anniversaries, my wife and I have made it a point to recognize each of our family members for the beauty they bring into our lives. For all the members of "Team Sturkol," it's kept us together and going.

We've had some holiday seasons, like those when I deployed or when money was tight, that were less stellar than other years. But, I don't think our children ever knew the difference because Bobbi and I always want the holidays to be special for them. That will never change.

When I've been deployed, Bobbi and I, as well as the kids, have communicated by every means available - phone, letter, e-mail and even video teleconferencing and texting. That interaction keeps our relationships fresh and eager for the next time we talk.

Also with Bobbi, I and our family through all of our holidays together the last 20 years has been my stepdaughter Holly (who I call my daughter). Holly started her own family in 1998 but has always continued to be a part of our lives with her husband Tim, and our granddaughters Lyla and Alison. They all are part of the family I love so much.

Yes 20 years ago I was in love...with Bobbi and the holidays...and I still am today. In the Air Force today, we talk about "resiliency." I can tell you, with certainty, my family is pretty resilient. We've taken just about everything the military can throw at us and we still are as happy as ever.

It's been 20 years, and it will be 20 more, and 20 more after that! Remember as you celebrate the holidays with family and friends that it's not about the gifts -- it's about celebrating people in your lives. If you remember that, then you'll thrive.

Happy holidays!

For more on AMC's Comprehensive Airman Fitness culture, visit the CAF Web Page at http://www.amc.af.mil/caf.  

(Note: This is the 22nd in a series of 24 stories for 2011 by Air Mobility Command Public Affairs highlighting the Comprehensive Airman Fitness culture through a "commitment of caring." Comprehensive Airman Fitness, or CAF, is built on "four pillars" of fitness -- physical, social, mental and spiritual fitness -- and five "Cs" -- caring, committing, communicating, connecting and celebrating. "Comprehensive Airman Fitness reflects our commitment to developing a holistic approach to caring for our people that equips, enables and empowers everyone to grow more physically, socially, mentally and spiritually fit," Gen. Raymond E. Johns, Jr., AMC commander said in June 2010 while addressing CAF to AMC wing commanders. "It's not another program, but rather, a means to enhance mission effectiveness by intentionally investing in one another.")