Anastacia Madera, 7, hugs her father, Staff Sgt. Eduardo Madera-Muniz after being surprised at his unannounced arrival at the deployed spouse’s dinner held at the Luke Air Force Base Chapel Dec. 13, 2012, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sandra Welch)
Staff Sgt. Eduardo Madera-Muniz shows his son Ezekiel Madera, 3, a dog-tag with a photo of the family after surprising his children by arriving unannounced at the deployed spouse’s dinner Dec. 13, 2012, at Luke Air Force Base, Ariz. Madera is serving a yearlong assignment at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Sandra Welch)
Crystal Madera, and her children, video chats with her husband Staff Sgt. Eduardo Madera-Muniz before he goes to work Dec. 11, 2012. The Madera family is currently geographically separated while Eduardo is serving a yearlong assignment at Kunsan Air Base, South Korea. Eduardo is an F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Kate Vaughn)
by Senior Airman Kate Vaughn
56th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
12/21/2012 - LUKE AIR FORCE BASE, Ariz. -- Christmas has always been a time for family and friends to gather, exchange gifts and spend time with one another. Sometimes, not every member of the family can be home, and when a family member is deployed it can change how a family spends the holiday season.
For the Madera family, it was looking like this Christmas was going to be one spent apart, or at least that's what 7-year-old Anastacia Madera thought.
Her dad, Staff Sgt. Eduardo Madera-Muniz, is serving a year-long remote assignment to Kunsan Air Base, Republic of Korea, as an F-16 Fighting Falcon crew chief, and to Anastacia's knowledge, wasn't coming home for another four months.
The Madera family usually communicates via Skype, and that's how Anastacia thought she was going to spend this Christmas with her dad.
Little did she know, however, mom and dad had a Christmas present better than anything Santa could deliver. In fact, it's exactly what was on Anastacia's Christmas list.
"All I want is for my dad to come home" she said. "I wouldn't ask for anything else. I love him, and I miss him very much."
What Anastacia didn't know was that her dad flew home to spend Christmas with her, her little brother, Ezekiel and her mom, Cryztal.
"I'm excited," Sergeant Madera said, as he waited outside the Luke AFB Chapel before surprising his daughter. "I want to see my kids. It's been seven months already, and I just want to give them a hug."
And that's exactly what he got to do as he appeared before his son and daughter Dec. 13 at the deployed spouses' dinner.
Dad made his entrance as Cryztal, Ezekiel and Anastacia were eating a meal in honor of their deployed family member. There were no words as the family finally embraced each other for the first time in seven months.
"This has been the hardest deployment on us" Cryztal said. "It's longer than past deployments, and we have another child."
The Madera family will spend Christmas together, but many military families will not spend the holidays with their loved ones.
For those families, Sergeant Madera said, "Keep your spirits up, and it will go by quickly."
The key for Cryztal is to stay busy.
"It was really rough in the beginning, just trying to find a routine that worked for me." Cryztal said. "It's not the same for everybody."
Anastacia looked up at her father with tears in her eyes overcome with emotion. It was clear to see just how much this Christmas wish meant to the 7-year-old and to the rest of the Madera family.
Many resources exist for families with a deployed military member. For helpful tools on how to deal with a deployed family member or spouse, call the Luke Airman and Family Readiness Center at (623) 856-6550.