One of the challenges of being a Canadian military family is having a loved one deployed, especially during the holiday season. We spoke to one such family to better understand how they stay connected while overseas, and how they plan to celebrate the holidays. Master Corporal Francois Champagne is currently serving at a military base in Poland. His wife, Marie-Claude Robitaille, is back home on CFB Kingston, where she works at the Canadian Forces Health Services Centre.

Champagne has served with the Canadian Armed Forces for over a decade. Over the years, he has been deployed to Afghanistan, Cyprus, the United Arab Emirates and Jamaica. Currently, he is serving in Poland. Over of the course of his deployments, he has missed birthdays and other special occasions, but this is the first time he has been away over the holidays.

Luckily, things are getting easier with texting, Skype and mobile apps like FaceTime. “It’s not like being there, but it’s the next best thing,” says Champagne. Due to the nature of his work, he is regularly on base and gets the opportunity to chat with his wife back in Canada several times a week.

Marie-Claude, with the help of her mother and sister, regularly puts together and sends her husband care packages to give him a little piece of home.

“The other guys on the base have been teasing me because I get packages so often”, laughs Champagne. He says Marie-Claude understands the military life and the sacrifices they have to make as a family. She admits it can be harder during the holidays when the larger family gets together. “That makes me think about him even more,” says Marie-Claude. Back home, the military community has resources available to help families during deployment, and Marie-Claude knows first-hand, as she volunteers at the Kingston Military Family Resource Centre.

With the help of regular communication and a generous number of care packages, the Champagnes are good at weathering these challenges. When asked about what makes the deployment manageable, Champagne says that it is tough to be away from his son and daughter, but he knows Marie-Claude understands. “I don’t worry while I’m away. She is my rock; I know I can count on her.”