- Associated Press - Thursday, December 25, 2014

NORFOLK, Neb. (AP) - Holidays are different for soldiers and sailors, Marines and airmen, says a former military chaplain.

During and after battle, they may struggle with the notions of peace and goodwill toward others, former chaplain Mike Moreno told the Norfolk Daily News (http://bit.ly/1x5PKYo ). And when they return from long deployments, the first Christmas back is “a much richer Christmas,” he said.

Nothing compares to celebrating the holidays at home, Moreno said.

“There’s a lot of dead time when you’re deployed,” Moreno said. “Usually what happens is you kind of imagine what will happen next year when you’re back together again - you’ll hug your kid and go to Christmas services. You don’t realize how much it means until it’s gone.”

Moreno, who has served as a U.S. Navy and reserve chaplain, is program director of Operation Barnabus, a relief program of the Lutheran Church-Missouri Synod that provides support for soldiers and their families.

Many soldiers - and civilians- face unsettled holidays, especially when they’re coping with the loss of loved ones. In those instances, he said, family and friends should not be afraid to mention memories of the deceased.

“Each and every Christmas, that hole in their heart is still there. They are thinking about (their lost loved one) almost every day, but their entire community of friends avoid(s) saying things to not hurt. That’s almost like erasing them,” Moreno said. “One of the saddest things is the idea that their loved one is forgotten.”

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Information from: Norfolk Daily News, http://www.norfolkdailynews.com

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