Know Your Military

What Judy Garland Taught Me About Deployment

Dec. 20, 2018 | BY Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jenn Lebron

For me, learning about World War II was all superficial knowledge until my history teacher played us “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” by Judy Garland.

In hindsight, we know that the war would end the next year, but Christmas of 1944 was something different to Americans of the time. For a moment, stop what you are doing. Go find Judy Garland’s rendition of the song, and sit and listen. (Seriously, go now.)

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas by Judy Garland

Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Let your heart be light
Next year all our troubles will be out of sight
Have yourself a merry little Christmas
Make the yuletide gay
Next year all our troubles will be miles away
Once again as in olden days
Happy golden days of yore
Faithful friends who are dear to us
Will be near to us once more
Someday soon we all will be together
If the fates allow
Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow
So have yourself a merry little Christmas now

The song is an incredibly sad song. The world was still at war and these words pierced the country with hope and melancholy at the same time. As I sat in the classroom, Judy Garland’s voice filled the room with a heaviness I wouldn’t feel or understand again until I was waiting back at home for my soldier while he was deployed to Afghanistan.

Cool story, bro. So, what?

Before I raised my right hand and swore an oath of enlistment in the Navy, I was an Army wife.

David and Jennifer Lebron.
Family Service
David Lebron joined the Army in 2005. In 2012, his wife, Jennifer Lebron, joined the Navy.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Lebron
VIRIN: 181218-N-KL567-001

My husband served in the 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team and deployed in operations Enduring Freedom VIII in 2007, and OEF X in 2009. As an infantryman, when he wasn’t in Afghanistan, he was in some forest in northern Italy, or on some weapons range in Germany.

This is where I learned to wait. This is where we, as a couple, learned what resilience looked and felt like. The pains of deployment and redeployment bruised us, made us stronger, and pushed us toward each other.

“Resilience” was the big buzz word for the Army then. There were resilience training events, resilience retreats, resilience briefings — we were hearing a lot about resilience.

Everything told us to hang in there and things would get better.

At Christmastime, I reminded myself every time I heard the words to that song, “Next year all our troubles will be out of sight ... next year all our troubles will be miles away … someday soon we’ll all will be together, if the fates allow.” These words gave me hope while they acknowledged and comforted my sadness.

Christmas in the Battlefield

When you’re deployed, you wonder if people think of you. You hope they do, and you fear they don’t.

When I hear my husband recall his Christmases in Afghanistan, there’s a bittersweetness about it. Just like the words of Judy Garland, I hear hope and melancholy. I am grateful for a brotherhood that kept him safe and gave him a reason to push through “the suck.” I am saddened by how lonely he felt, how forgotten he felt, and how he longed to be remembered.

A group of soldiers pose for a photo.
Soldier Pose
Soldiers with the 1st Battalion, 503rd Infantry Regiment, 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, stop for a picture at Combat Outpost Zerok in Paktika Province, Afghanistan.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Jennifer Lebron
VIRIN: 181218-Z-ZZZZZ-002

Sitting on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan, surrounded by mountains, this band of brothers looked to each other for family. They fought and lived for each other, making sure each of them could get back home.

Judy sings, “Until then we'll have to muddle through somehow.”

They muddled through by playing video games to wind down after tower guard and feasting on the only meat they could get shipped in: Salisbury steak sandwiches made with blueberry bagels.

Christmas Here at Home

As we get closer to Christmas, I remind myself there are still service members deployed overseas — away from their families, working 18-hour shifts on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but they do this for you.

Soldiers hold lit candles.
Singing Soldiers
Soldiers light candles during a Christmas Cantata in Saint Michael's Chapel at Forward Operating Base Shank in Logar province, Afghanistan, Dec. 22, 2012. Soldiers prayed and sang Christmas hymns in celebration of the holidays.
Photo By: Spc. Alexandra Campo
VIRIN: 121224-A-RT803-819
Sailors exchange gifts.
Stocking Stuffers
Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Girien Salazar hands out a Christmas bear to a sailor who participated in a holiday stocking stuffing event held by Camp Lemonnier's chapel, Dec. 8, 2014. The Christmas stockings and supplies were donated from various organizations throughout the United States.
Photo By: Julia Casper
VIRIN: 141208-N-RY232-002

Deployed troops eat Christmas dinner.
Christmas Dinner
Marines and sailors assigned Fox Company, 2nd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, eat Christmas dinner at Forward Operating Base Now Zad in Helmand province, Afghanistan, Dec. 25, 2012.
Photo By: Cpl. Alejandro Pena
VIRIN: 121225-M-YH552-083
An Army chaplain prays.
Holiday Prayer
Chaplain (Lt. Col.) Steven “St. Nick” Nicolai leads a prayer before the holiday meal at the 451st AEW holiday party at Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan, Dec. 22, 2013.
Photo By: Capt. Jason Smith
VIRIN: 131222-F-BY961-070A

They do this for you and your family, for your holiday meals and shopping deals, they do this for America.

They do this for each other and those that have come before them.

This year, remember them, because they hope that you do, and fear that you don’t.