Iowa Military Families Prepare for Holidays with Loved Ones Overseas

JOHNSTON, Iowa -- Ashlea Popenhagen and Anne Powell’s dinner tables are going to be missing a person over the holidays as their husbands, Robert and Clint are serving in Afghanistan for the Iowa Army National Guard.

“So usually he cooks this year I’m cooking and we are coming together and having something here tomorrow,” Popenhagen said.

Powell said her family will miss Clint at Thanksgiving, but especially at Christmas time too.

“It’ll still be hard. We always get up and meet by the tree and open presents and I know he will miss all that,” Powell said

Even though they won’t be at home, other soldiers said the army makes holidays away from home special with a meal and decorations.

“If you can picture a big long set of tables that are all lined up and a bunch of soldiers lined up on there all eating and you know whether it’s talking about a recent game or football scores, whatever it is the conversations are very similar. It’s just not your immediate family, it’s your second family,” Iowa National Guard Lieutenant Colonel Tim Mills said.

Popenhagen and Powell said they sent care packages full of decorations and recipes for the holiday so that their husbands still feel like they are part of the festivities thousands of miles away.

“They lean on each other for everything. Clint and Rob have been battle buddies since we moved back to the states in 2009, so they’ve been together a long time. They were thrilled to be going together. Oh my goodness yes. And we actually got introduced through them before they left so we would have a friendship while our husbands were gone,” Popenhagen and Powell said.

Popenhagen and Powell said they are very proud of the work their husbands are doing and can't wait to have them home sometime next year.