Bridging the gap

Senior Camille Abdel shares how having her sister in the Navy impacts her family's holiday celebrations.

Senior+Camille+Abdel%2C+right%2C+poses+with+her+sister%2C+BVNW+graduate+Sarah+Abdel%2C+while+she+returns+home+for+Thanksgiving.
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Bridging the gap

Senior Camille Abdel, right, poses with her sister, BVNW graduate Sarah Abdel, while she returns home for Thanksgiving.

Senior Camille Abdel, right, poses with her sister, BVNW graduate Sarah Abdel, while she returns home for Thanksgiving.

photo provided by Camille Abdel

Senior Camille Abdel, right, poses with her sister, BVNW graduate Sarah Abdel, while she returns home for Thanksgiving.

photo provided by Camille Abdel

photo provided by Camille Abdel

Senior Camille Abdel, right, poses with her sister, BVNW graduate Sarah Abdel, while she returns home for Thanksgiving.

Flammy Huo, Writer

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With candles lit, turkey cooked and decorations set up, BVNW families gear up for the holidays. However, some families are missing members during the holiday season. Senior Camille Abdel faced the uncertainty of the reunion with her older sister, Sarah Abdel, a former BVNW student who serves in the Navy.

According to Abdel, Sarah joined boot camp in Feb. 2014 for physical training, graduated from A-school and C-school, which develop professional skills for military services, and is currently stationed in a military hospital in Hawaii as a navy corpsman.

Abdel said Sarah’s commitment to the military changes her family dynamic, especially during the holiday season. Sydney Steinbrueck, Abdel’s mother, said Sarah was able to come home for Thanksgiving, but she is not granted approval to leave for Christmas.

“I’m sort of dreading Christmas because she’s not going to be there,” Steinbrueck said. “I know what she’s doing is important and, actually, I’m more worried about her being alone, because we still have each other, but she won’t have anybody.”

Same as Steinbrueck, Abdel foresaw the emptiness of her winter break without her sister’s companionship.

“It’ll be really different just because that’s just the kind of the time when Sarah and I weren’t at school, and we hung out together the entire winter break,” Abdel said. “I’ll be really sad because it’ll be the first Christmas without her. Although she’s not fighting in extreme danger, I still miss her and I know that she’s doing good things.”

However, on the bright side, Abdel said she is more focused on her sister’s Thanksgiving visit, a reunion she is ecstatic for.

“We make breakfast in the morning, and we always watch [Macy’s] Thanksgiving Parade,” Abdel said. “This year, since Sarah [came] home, my cousin and some of my extensive family who live in Bolton, Louisiana [came] up to our house. We [had] a ton of family and a ton of food, and Sarah [was] there. [I was] so excited.”

Now Sarah is home. Sarah said being at home is a relief and she missed the familiarity of home.

“Hawaii is culturally different,” Sarah said. “I miss my family all the time. It’s hard because of the time difference, and I am so far away. I’m kind of isolated on the island, but I think I have matured a lot for being gone.”

While enjoying the present, Sarah said she does not looked forward to Christmas because she knows the fun time will be deprived without her family around.

For Abdel, it is hard to ignore that since Sarah departed to Hawaii to pursue her career in the military, she experienced a strong sense of withdrawal, having a hard time accommodating to her new life without her sister.

“It took me a long time to get used to it, getting used to not having her 24/7 with me,” Abdel said. “My sister and I are really close, so it was really hard for me when she went to boot camp the first time. I didn’t get to talk to her and didn’t get to see her at all, no cell phones or anything. So I wrote letters to her pretty much every day.”

Steinbrueck said the absence of Sarah at home has had a huge impact on Abdel. She said Camille has grown more independent.

“I think Camille feels kind of left out,” Steinbrueck said. “She misses having Sarah there for important events like homecoming. She was really sad that she wasn’t there because it was Camille’s first homecoming, and her sister wasn’t there to see her in her dress and meet her date.”

Sarah is even uncertain about coming home for Abdel’s graduation, but she said things change and people accomodate.

“I miss a lot, and I think I knew that when I enlisted,” Sarah said. “I don’t miss something, I miss everything. I wish I could be there all the time. I always see through pictures; I don’t ever see it in person myself. It makes me really sad, but I may be doing something for everyone…but you get used to it.”

Abdel said their limited call time based on the strict regulations in the military, long distance and time difference between two different continents convolutes their communication. In the meantime, time difference is a thorn in Sarah’s side as well.

“ Hawaii is a full four hours behind Overland Park, so when I’m getting up at four, they’re probably asleep,” Sarah said. “It’s always fun to deal with.”

However, despite the difficulties the two sisters face, Abdel said she has learned from Sarah’s persistence and positivity to chase after what she wants to do and is proud of her sister’s determination to push herself.

“Even though something is hard, she has really developed a lot of positivity and things like that; [she is] really being tough,” Abdel said. “I take a lot of that from her whenever I see her. She’s always so strong, and that makes me kind of want to be like her. I’ve always looked up to her my whole life.”

Just like Abdel learned perseverance from her sister, Steinbrueck said Sarah has taught her to be fearless.

“She has really taught me to go with the flow and to take some risk,” Steinbrueck said. “She takes great risk doing it. A lot of us were not sure if she was going to make it through boot camp, but she did amazing. She inspired me.”

Steinbrueck said Sarah will be stationed in Hawaii for at least three years, and she will maybe go into college. She said the military is a worthy occupation that is sometimes mistaken stereotypically by people.

“Some people think that going into the military is not as good as going into college, but sometimes college is not for everyone at that moment,” Steinbrueck said, “I hope that people recognize that it’s not just about being in the navy or the military because they couldn’t get into college or whatever. It’s about so much more than that.”

Although the family lost their time together for the holiday season, Abdel said it does not change the fact that they love each other and the family’s appreciation upon her achievements.

“It’s so hard, but she just kept going and we’re all really proud of her for not giving up and doing what she really wanted to do,” Abdel said.