Almost home for Christmas; lights provide seasonal cheer, sendoffWhen a River Falls business sought nominations of a local military family who had someone deployed and who would enjoy free, outdoor, holiday lights, three people suggested the same family: The Weisses on East Division Street.
By: Debbie Griffin, River Falls Journal
When a River Falls business sought nominations of a local military family who had someone deployed and who would enjoy free, outdoor, holiday lights, three people suggested the same family: The Weisses on East Division Street.
The Journal visited their home Friday, Dec. 9, shortly after AnnMarie, along with 7-year-old Memphis and 3-year-old Bella, had said goodbye to husband and father Josh at the international airport.
He had arrived home the day before Thanksgiving and left Friday for six more months in Kuwait.
His tour of duty there began last May. The couple expects it to end in June.
AnnMarie said, “This will only be the second time in 15 years he won’t be home for Christmas.”
Josh, a staff sergeant in the Army National Guard, has served 15 years. This deployment, for Operation New Dawn, is his third since the war began.
Josh is an infantryman attached to the Minnesota-based Red Bull unit. Its job will be the ‘safe deployment’ of people and equipment during the U.S. drawdown of troops.
AnnMarie says a past deployment stretched into 22 months -- the longest of any unit since WWII -- and that by comparison, this one isn’t “that bad.”
She admits that having Josh gone is much harder with two children than it was when they had one.
His wife says while it’s difficult being without Josh, she’s glad to support him because he likes his military job and works hard at it.
When not deployed, Josh works locally as a repair and installation technician for AT&T.
AnnMarie says when Greenskeepers’ Christmas Décor crew came Dec. 6, the activities made fun for everyone -- including three Twin Cities TV news crews that covered the lighting and talk to Weisses.
View one of the interviews on YouTube:
“I’m still in shock that we were on TV,” said AnnMarie, adding that after each piece, she heard from lots of people who’d seen them.
She said Memphis got to pick out the color scheme of the roof-line lights, and one of the TV crews affixed a microphone to him for a bit. AnnMarie said Bella kept peeking through the windows and wanting to go outside, too.
Melissa “Missy” Crayford of Greenskeepers brought special 3D glasses that made all the lights look like snowflakes.
AnnMarie says the crew came about 2 p.m. and finished well before “the lighting” at about 4:30 p.m. It affixed colored lights all around the roof’s edge, lined the windows with lights and hung lighted garland and wreaths as well as ribbons outside.
“It’s really nice they put them on a timer, and we don’t have to do anything,” she said, adding that the lights shine both in the morning darkness and at night.
The family loves Christmas, says AnnMarie, but has never displayed any outdoor decorations. She said Josh got excited after seeing how nice they look and asked her to shop some after-Christmas sales for exterior decorations to use next year.
She enjoyed watching Josh get interviewed and talk about his job in the Army.
AnnMarie says her favorite quote of Josh’s from the day’s interviews related to his Army job: “No one’s ever asked me to do it, it’s something I just do.”
The Decorated Family concept surprised them all, says AnnMarie. They knew nothing of it until they heard they’d been nominated.
People from the American Legion nominated them, as well as neighbor Val Lundgren and Memphis’ teacher from Greenwood, Kari LaPoint. Neither AnnMarie nor Josh feels they warrant special attention, but both agree the day was fun.
She said now that they know about Decorated Family, they will be able to nominate deserving people they know next year.
AnnMarie shrugs and says there is no special formula for persevering during deployment, “You just do.”
She and the kids will stay busy and positive plus focus on the great time they had during Josh’s recent two-week visit. AnnMarie says they really packed in the fun -- celebrating Christmas and Bella’s third birthday, among other things.
His wife observed that Josh enjoyed many small-and-simple things about being home, for example cooking his own food and having access to fresh beef and milk.
AnnMarie recounts a bit of the couple’s history: Josh, from Durand, moved to River Falls in 1990. She lived in St. Paul when they met about 10 years ago.
The Weisses celebrated their 8th wedding anniversary this fall.
Josh deployed the first time for 11 months then came home for 10 months and deployed for nearly two years. It was several years before the current tour began.
AnnMarie says the family is lucky with this deployment that they can talk every day and see each other on Skype as often as they want. She said each deployment has been different, but she has a good support group of friends and family who help immensely. AnnMarie said Dec. 1 marked the approximate halfway point of Josh’s deployment, so even after the Christmas lights get packed and stored, the symbolic yellow ribbons will stay until his next homecoming.