Students and families miss relatives serving overseas

Beaver Dam senior Zach Daugherty, cadet captain in Army ROTC, comes from a military family. Daugherty won’t be with his father, 1st Sgt. Zachary Daugherty, this Christmas because of his deployment.

Anna Anderson

As Zachary Daugherty prepares for the Christmas holiday season, he knows something important is missing. His father, 1st Sgt. Kevin Daugherty, won’t be home.

“It definitely changes the holiday spirit,” Zachary Daugherty said.

The Beaver Dam senior is a cadet captain in Army ROTC and comes from a long line of military service. This isn’t the first year that his father’s own service has kept him away over the holidays.

Regardless of how many times Kevin Daugherty has been away, Cheryl Daugherty, Kevin’s wife and Zachary’s stepmother, said that it can still be tough to cope with his absence.

“You can tell there’s a presence that’s missing,” she said.

Kevin Daugherty was deployed for a year to the Kandahar province in Afghanistan, in mid-October. His family copes with the situation by having faith that he will safely return home.

“Faith is a big factor in my family,” Zachary Daugherty said. “It definitely helps get through some of the hard times.”

While he does worry about his father overseas, Daugherty said he tries not to dwell on it.

Guston senior Jacob Baldwin also tries to mask his worries about his twin brother, Spc. Justin Baldwin.

“If you went around worrying about what was happening to him all the time, you’d probably lose your mind,” he said.

Jacob Baldwin, also a member of ROTC, said holidays spent with his brother are rare. In the 48 months since his brother enlisted in the Army, 32 of them have been served overseas, he said.

Like Zachary Daugherty, Jacob Baldwin grew up in a military family in Flaherty, Ky., His father, Kirk Baldwin, a retired sergeant major, was deployed for Christmas in 2001.

That year, the Baldwins celebrated Thanksgiving Day and then exchanged gifts for Christmas the next day so Kirk Baldwin wouldn’t miss anything.

“If we know someone is about to deploy, we celebrate the upcoming holiday,” Jacob Baldwin said. “That’s our tradition.”

Justin Baldwin deployed in January to Camp War Horse in Iraq and was relocated to Kuwait after the base was closed earlier this year. He is expected home either before this Christmas or early next year.

In order to give him some semblance of Christmas, the Daugherty family plans to send gifts and cards to Kevin once he gets settled overseas. He’s currently stationed at Fort Dix, N.J., and is expected to arrive in Afghanistan in the beginning of December.

Though both the Daugherty and Baldwin families miss their loved ones overseas, Jacob Baldwin said they can celebrate Christmas with relative normalcy. The case isn’t the same for his brother.

“Even though our traditions weren’t that big, he probably misses them more than anybody,” Jacob Baldwin said.

For Zachary Daugherty, Christmases without his father make him more aware of the sacrifices made by women and men serving in the military.

“It’s an honor to protect our way of life,” Zachary Daugherty said.