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Holidays without loved ones

Three-year-old Ruby Mills greets Santa during Saturday morning’s Hearts Apart Kids’ Holiday Party held at the Mountain View Club. More than 100 people attended this year’s event, including Col. Richard W. Gibbs, 377th Air Base Wing commander.

Three-year-old Ruby Mills greets Santa during Saturday morning’s Hearts Apart Kids’ Holiday Party held at the Mountain View Club. More than 100 people attended this year’s event, including Col. Richard W. Gibbs, 377th Air Base Wing commander.

Zoey Mills, 2, opens her present from Santa. She also celebrated her birthday Dec. 16 during the Hearts Apart Kids’ Christmas Party. More than 100 people attended this year’s event.

Zoey Mills, 2, opens her present from Santa. She also celebrated her birthday Dec. 16 during the Hearts Apart Kids’ Christmas Party. More than 100 people attended this year’s event.

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Christmas is a time when family gathers to celebrate, but for many Kirtland families someone is missing the festivities. The Mills family will celebrate their Christmas with a casino-made meal, while father Tech. Sgt. Timothy Mills is more than 6,000 miles away from home. Mills left in May for a one-year deployment to Osan Air Base in South Korea.

His wife Amy, along with their children, Andrew, 8, Ruby, 3, and Zoey, 2, try to keep things as normal as possible back home at Kirtland.

“It is a struggle,” Amy said. “It is a lot harder to keep up with normal activities with him gone. Holidays are more of a struggle because it is hard to feel absolutely cheerful when he is away.”

Amy and the three Mills children attended this year’s Hearts Apart Kids’ Holiday Party held on Saturday morning at the Mountain View Club. Currently there are approximately 170 Airmen deployed from Kirtland, which means that the Mills family is just one of the many families who have a loved one away this holiday season. More then 100 family members of deployed Airmen from the past year participated in this year’s Hearts Apart Kids’ Christmas Holiday Party, which is organized by Airman and Family Readiness Flight. The flight provides support for the Airmen and their families throughout the year.

“Wrapping presents alone on Christmas Eve is not going to be fun,” Amy said.

Tech. Sgt. Miller deployed for training in May and will return home to Kirtland in July. During this time, his family would have celebrated many holidays and celebrations, including Zoey’s second birthday, which took place on Saturday.

Amy, originally from Mississippi and a medically retired Air Force veteran, said the children get to communicate with their dad regularly using technology, but it is sometimes difficult to have any communication with him because of the 16-hour time difference.

“It is rough without Daddy. I wish he was home,” Andrew said while decorating a Christmas ornament at this year’s Hearts Apart Christmas event.

Andrew added that he enjoys playing video games with his daddy regularly, despite the miles between them, using Nintendo Switch.

Amy said that it is hard to travel or relocate near family during her husband’s deployment because Andrew has a disability and is in need of regular therapy.

She said the family would stay home on base this year for Christmas, as the closest relatives to Kirtland is her husband’s family in Alaska.

“We decorated and kept things as much as normal for the kids,” Amy said. “We put up our Christmas tree and we most likely will go to the casino for Christmas dinner.”

Amy added that the family home, which is normally decorated both inside and outside, is lacking decorations outside due to her husband being deployed.

She also thanked the Kirtland families and staff, as they are always there to support each other.

“We will FaceTime him on Christmas morning,” Amy said. “We will open presents all together and he will watch the same movies as us.”