Parents with kids overseas wait for a holiday together

Todd Vanderwerff

Todd Vanderwerff

This Christmas, hundreds of South Dakota families will celebrate the holiday without a familiar face at their table.

Somehow, the house might seem a little bit emptier without them, but in the end, that sadness and emptiness will be tempered by the fact that those missing faces are across the sea, serving their country. In the end, the loneliness is offset by pride.

It’s the sort of dilemma families with military personnel face every holiday season. This year, however, the feelings are more widespread, as thousands of U.S. military personnel members are in the Middle East, fighting the Iraqi conflict.

When Jeff and Cindy Beringer gathered with their family for Thanksgiving, they remembered their son Bryan, who is overseas. He had just been home on leave from late October to early November, so the memories of him were fresh.

“We say a little prayer for his safety and all the soldiers,” said Jeff Beringer.

The Beringers, who live in Pierre but say Bryan was able to attend SDSU for ten days before being called up, were surprised when Bryan’s unit was activated. They expected their other son Dustin’s unit to be activated, but Dustin has yet to be called up. Still, they are happy to have their son serving his country.

“We’ve all been in favor of the commitment our country has made to (the war). We felt it was necessary. We kind of believe it’s better to fight the war over there … rather than fight it in our own country, but it is scary. Every day you’re thinking about it,” Jeff Beringer said.

Laurie Tangen’s daughter Theanne is also overseas. She is from Volga and her daughter was an SDSU student before being activated too.

Theanne will be home for the holidays, though. She’ll come back shortly after Christmas for a few days. The Tangens will have a late Christmas celebration and Theanne’s sister will fly in from Arizona.

“We’re just so glad that she’s able to take a leave and come out and see the family,” Laurie Tangen said. “I worry about her safety, but I know that she’s in good hands there and that she’s been trained well.”

#1.886562:2704657232.jpg:Iraq-MissingDaughterWeb.jpg:Theanne Tangen (portrait) is in the Middle East, serving in the military. Her mother Laurie Tangen (background) is looking forward to seeing her daughter over Christmas. (inset photo) Bryan Beringer sits in a tank in Iraq. He was home for Thanksgiving.: