By Adam Paul Laxalt

The holiday season is a time when millions of Americans get to take a break from the stress of their daily lives and devote their attention to their faith, their family, and their friends.

For the men and women who serve our country as members of the military, however, the call of duty often means having to spend the holidays overseas and away from their loved ones.

As I spend this Christmas with my family, celebrating the arrival of our third child and first son, John Dominic, I think back to when I had to spend the holidays away from family and friends.

When I was serving in the U.S. Navy in 2006, I was deployed in Iraq and unable to return home for Christmas that year. We did our best, and great effort was undertaken, to try to replace the usual Christmas experience, including having local nationals dressed as Santa Claus and having access to an extra-nice meal. But of course, the reality was that we were still in a war zone and our efforts could not come close to replicating the real thing.

A few years later I was again serving overseas during Christmas, this time in Italy. Along with other service members without families (I was still single at the time), we banned together and created our own little Christmas with fellow officers and friends.

Each experience was different, but neither was home. As much as my fellow service members meant to me, and as much as we all appreciated the support and strength we were able to draw from each other and from the generous people stateside who sent us Christmas letters and care packages, there was simply no substitute for getting to spend that time with my loved ones back home.

I think back to those years I was away often, especially around this time of year. But I think even more about those who are going through that same experience right now. I cannot imagine missing the birth of any of my children, and yet there are those stationed abroad who miss the birth of their sons and daughters every day. We cannot begin to understand the sacrifices our heroes make to keep our country safe. The men and women of our armed forces are tough, courageous, and committed beyond belief.

This holiday season, I hope you will join me and my family in taking some time to appreciate the sacrifice of those who wear our country’s uniform and do whatever you can to send Christmas cheer their way. It is impossible to explain the general feeling of loss and loneliness our men and women overseas experience, especially at Christmas time. Sometimes a holiday letter from a stranger or a package of Christmas cookies can help ease the sting. I am still grateful today for the packages and letters we received from our loved ones, as well as the complete strangers who took time to pack and send Christmas care packages to those of us overseas.

Please keep our services members, those stationed in combat zones as well as those on safe but still far-away assignments, in your thoughts and prayers, as you experience Christmas at home and in your own country. We owe our freedoms to their bravery and we should never forget how much they give up in order to keep our country safe.

I wish you and your loved ones a very Merry Christmas, and a safe, happy holiday season.

Adam Paul Laxalt is Nevada’s 33rd Attorney General and a candidate for Nevada Governor.