Christmas holds special meaning for local National Guard unit

This Christmas holds a special meaning to more than a hundred Texas National Guard members and their families.  At the beginning of next year, the Tyler National Guard unit will deploy overseas for the first time.  Sunday, they celebrated the holidays, but the party was just as much for the families as the soldiers themselves.

From games, to food, to even Santa Claus, Sunday afternoon the families of more than a hundred National Guard members focused on having fun and not what was soon to come.

"It's my turn," said HHC 136th Military Police Battalion Staff Sergeant William Todd.  "I don't know how happy my wife may be about it, but she understands I am a soldier, I consider myself a soldier, and it's my turn."  Todd has been a guardsman for more than 22 years.  He says he's been wanting to deploy for nearly four years now, something his wife Susan and their two children Braden, 10 and Riley, 5 have learned to understand.

"I'm nervous," said Todd's wife Susan.  "I feel that it's better because they have been together for awhile now.  They worked together on the hurricane mission, they have been together for the AT's, they know each other, they trust each other, and that makes me feel better."  The Tyler National Guard unit formed two years ago.  This afternoon, some of the guardsmen were recognized for their accomplishments, but the soldier's say events like Sunday's are especially important for the families.

"When we do mobilize, and when we do go overseas, we as soldiers are going to be a band of brothers and sisters, we have each other to lean on, but the families back home, who do they have," said Todd.  "Well, they have each other, and this an opportunity to meet the people that are going to be in the same circumstance that they are."  The National Guard also wants the community to know who they are, and if a disaster strikes it's there to help.

"Here in the Guard, you have soldiers anywhere from 17 years of age to I'm 40ish," said Todd. "You know, up in their 50's.  This is a calling.  This is not just a job."  A desire to serve and protect, but Sunday relax and just have a good time.

Molly Reuter, Reporting