Rick Snowdy is an Army National Guard Apache pilot stationed in Afghanistan. Gone for 12 months, to his kids he's become a voice on the phone and a picture in a frame.
Wife Suzy, like thousands of military spouses across the country, is left to run a household and a family business.
"The hardest part is I'm just not groomed to be a daddy," Suzy Snowdy says.
She says their company, Chopper Electric, was on target to have "its best year ever this year."
But with her husband gone, she had to shut the company down, dig into their life savings and scale back on their lifestyle.
"Had we not lived the way we did this truly could have bankrupted us," Suzy Snowdy says.
The financial and emotional strain of families like the Snowdys is causing real worry for the National Guard and Reserves. A big worry is about retention, especially among the ranks of onetime "weekend warriors," who in many cases have had their tours extended to more than a year.
"The last thing we want somebody in a foxhole thinking about is whether momma is going to be able to pay the rent or whether momma is going to get the mortgage foreclosed upon next month," said Col. John Odom.
The Snowdys will survive, but it's tough, especially during this holiday, and especially in the Afghan desert, where Rick Snowdy just received his Christmas gifts.
But Christmas won't be Christmas for the Snowdy family and thousands just like them until they're all back home.