"She agreed that military friends quickly become family. She found that while she was serving in a small unit that had little contact with others.
"You're either on a mission or sleeping" she explained. This year, she's playing music -- something she had never done before. She praised the Music for Veterans program. She said, it's been very successful in helping veterans with PTSD by offering musical instruments
and music lessons.
"In six months, I learned to play the guitar and have met veterans from Vietnam and everywhere. I got free music lessons and just plain had fun," she said. "I love James Taylor, and I can play 'Fire and Rain' and 'Country Road.'"
Her advice to families who can't share the day together is to modify the holiday and do something fun for others. "I always make it a point to do something special for people who are deployed," she said. "Care packages are so important, and it doesn't have to be expensive.
"She noted that some of her most memorable care packages were handmade items that she received that helped her remember home. "Anything you can keep close that reminds you of home is a wonderful gift," she said.
Pam Parker is editor of Her Times,
Lake Erie LifeStyle and House to Home
Laura Harper, a United States Air Force Arabic linguist, served inQatar, Afghanistan and Iraq. After four years, nine months in service, she received nine Air Combat Medals, two Joint Service Commendation Medals and the Air Force Achievement Medal. She was also named the National Board of Certified Counselor's Military Scholar of the Year for 2013.
A graduate of Gannon University with a master's degree in clinical mental health counseling, Laura relocated with her wife upon graduation. The Mississippi native grew up in a military family, but after a falling out with them has not returned to her home in years.
"I grew up in the military and understand," she said. "I was really excited when I enlisted and my dad was very proud of me.