First-time military family celebrates holidays without a loved one

MEDFORD, Ore.– The holidays are almost here but for hundreds of southern Oregon families, they’ll be celebrating without a loved one.

The Oregon Army National Guard 186th Infantry Battalion is currently stationed in the Horn of Africa. It’s serving it’s 10-month mandated federal mission. NBC5 News has been following three of these families as they go through the deployment.

With Christmas right around the corner, many of these families are getting into the spirit of it. But for the Jones family – things are a bit different this year.

“The miles between us and not able to communicate with her everyday is pretty tough,” said Bob Jones.

Jones is the father of 21-year-old Oregon Army National Guard Spc. Patricia Jones. Along with 450 Oregon Army National Guard Soldiers, she’s serving her federal mission in Djibouti and Somalia.

Needless to say, her family worries.

“Oh yeah it’s been very tough,” said Jones. “In my mind I’m constantly thinking about her.”

On a recent weekend, deployed soldiers families were invited to attend the Providence Festival of Trees at the Medford Armory at no cost. Part of the Jones family attended, bringing back a lot of holiday memories.

“She’d hype up Christmas and got us all excited for it,” said Bridget Jones.

Bridget, Patricia’s older sister, attended the event with her two children and several of their other sisters. In total, Patricia has seven sisters.

For them, Patricia was the baker and the home-maker. The one that helped make Christmas feel special and this year, that’s a little harder to do.

“For me especially, for my sons, my kids – they’re so close to her it’s nice being able to have her around,” said Bridget. “She’s like another mom to them. It’s rough but it’ll be a few more months.”

Bridget says one of the hardest parts is knowing Patricia will miss the birth of her third child. She’s expected to give birth in the next couple months.

“She’s always been so family-oriented and I know it’s tough on us but I don’t want to take that away of how much I feel it is more tough on her,” she said.

Beneath the twinkling of Christmas lights, this year the Jones family will have a missing seat at the table. But the family believes in Patricia and what she’s doing.

Though she’s thousands of miles away she’s close to them every day, especially around the holidays.

“Pray everyday,” said Bob Jones. “Sometimes multiple times a day for my daughter Patrice and the rest of our family.”

If you would like to learn more about Spc. Patricia Jones, view our coverage of the beginning of the battalions deployment here.

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