Christopher Switzer and son Hayden celebrate homecoming aboard HMCS Vancouver.

Christopher Switzer and son Hayden celebrate homecoming aboard HMCS Vancouver.

COURAGE: Recreating missed memories

Holidays at sea inspire jam-packed return home for military family

Missing holidays is just part of the territory when you are in the military.

The Switzer family created a way to make every holiday a celebration, even if it’s months after the fact.

When Chris Switzer returned home after a seven-month deployment in Libya, in February 2012, he wanted to catch up on all the holidays he’d missed with the family.

“We just celebrated everything at once,” he said.

Friday night Chris along with his wife Jennifer and their son Hayden, now 7, decorated the Christmas tree.

“We put Christmas ornaments, Halloween decorations and Valentine’s Day cards on the tree,” Jennifer laughed. They had Christmas Eve ham dinner and each opened a gift before bed.

“We told Hayden we were going to do this because he was so upset that his dad wouldn’t be home for Christmas,” Jennifer said. “Hayden was so excited and asked if we could do it every year.”

Saturday morning they opened the rest of the gifts, ate two birthday cakes and cooked a turkey dinner.

The rest of weekend the family dressed up for Halloween, plus celebrated an anniversary and Valentine’s Day.

“Doing this just makes it easier, especially with the holidays when you have children,” Jennifer said. Both grew up in military families and have never heard of anyone celebrating quite like this.

During his military career Chris has missed five of his son’s birthdays, eight of his wife’s birthdays and two Christmases, among other holidays.

When he is not home Chris works as a hull technician on the navy ships. Chris prides himself on the help he provides others, including helping control traffic in and out of Libya and building irrigation for an orphanage in Ecuador.

“That was something they didn’t have and it’s important during the flood season,” said the Petty Officer 2nd Class. “I tell my son that when I am away from the family I am out helping other people.”

This year Chris, attends the fleet school in Esquimalt, plans to honour veterans at the Remembrance Day ceremony in Ladysmith with his son’s Beaver Scout troop.

Chris explained it’s hard to relate his work in the military to those who served in the First World War or Second World War.

“No one has been in combat for a few years,” he said, adding he relates to former veterans by the time away from his family.

 

“I relate by all the birthdays I’ve missed.”