A Soldier’s Christmas

What do you want for Christmas?
It’s the question that everyone is asking this time of year. As many of us
prepare to stuff our stockings and fill our living rooms with the wishes of our
loved ones, it’s easy to forget about the simple things that actually keep us
warm well beyond the holiday season.

Specialist Wood with FamilySpecialist Andrew Wood gifts us
with liberties and freedom year round. Currently, he is serving our country
overseas in Afghanistan. After graduating from Bishop McGuinness in 2010 and
completing two semesters at OSU, he decided to join the Oklahoma National Guard
and has been deployed since the summer. He originally enlisted to help with
college expenses, but he quickly discovered that the National Guard was the
place for him. “I love every bit of it,” says Andrew. “I’m with a great group
of people and that alone makes it better. Knowing that I’m doing something that
benefits everyone back home—that’s a reward.” This year, Andrew will spend the
Holidays away from home and he will also celebrate his 23rd birthday in
December. “It will be my first Christmas deployed,” says Andrew. He looks at
his fellow soldiers as extended family members and is hoping to enjoy some down
time with them this holiday season. “A lot of the people who I’m with are on
first deployments as well. We’ve grown very close.”

No one can replace the family
that Andrew has back home, but his mother is grateful that Andrew is surrounded
by loved ones. “That is what keeps me going,” says Liz Wood. “Coming from a
military family, I know how important the bond is.  The camaraderie, the
friendship, the brothers in arms—it gets a soldier through it.” This year, Liz
has one thing at the top of her Christmas list. While speaking with her over
the phone, her tone clearly reveals her sole desire. “Did you get to speak with
my son?” she asks. “I’m so jealous.” As her voice shakes and more questions
follow, you can only hope that the responses over the spotty cell phone service
offer some level of comfort to the concerned mother. “How is he doing?” After reassuring
her that her son is in great spirits, Liz quietly breathes a sigh of relief and
begins to open up about her youngest child. “We were very surprised when he
joined the military,” says Liz. “He joined about three or four weeks after his
older brother.” Andrew is the youngest of Liz’s three children. Although it
came as a surprise to friends and family members, she says they fully support
Andrew’s decision. “We could not be more proud!”

Liz says that everything changed
for Andrew one night at his job. He was busy working the night shift as the
front desk clerk at a hotel. One of the overnight guests happened to be an
agent with the Federal Aviation Administration who also worked with Bell
Helicopters. Andrew has always been interested in helicopters and, as his mom
calls it, “mechanically inclined.” After talking with the gentleman, Andrew was
inspired to follow his dream which eventually led him to the National Guard.

Wood and his motherAndrew’s entire family—Liz and
his father Forrest Wood, his older sister April and big brother Jon—are all
anticipating Andrew’s safe return. There is one family member in particular who
is anxious to see his best bud—Andrew’s dog Argos. “It’s really all about the
dog, if you know Andrew,” says Liz. Prior to leaving for boot camp, Andrew had
an endearing request of his family members. “He was getting on the bus and some
of his last words were, ‘if there is any way that you can send me Argos, please
send him to me.’”

Since Andrew’s deployment in June, Liz’s
communication with him has been mainly through thoughts, prayers and daily
Facebook messages. “I haven’t spoken to him since he left,” says Liz. “I
message him every day!” Andrew might not always have enough time to message his
loved ones, but he says that he constantly feels a strong connection with them.
It’s these binding ties that are helping him get through the holidays. “It’s
hard to know how much you care about your family, but it’s even harder to know
how much they care about you,” he says. Andrew believes that everyone can afford
to send a small gift to all soldiers who are separated from the ones they love.
“It may not seem like your thoughts and prayers get to us, but every little bit
matters.”

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