By PETE MCCARTHY and JAKR YOHN
The Frederick News-Post
FREDERICK, Md. - Whether at home or abroad, military personnel and their families face a strain during the holiday season.
For some, there is the joy of a loved one returning just in time to spend the holidays with their loved ones. Others, however, must live with the fear of knowing their special person could be in harm's way.
"It's a time when most people think about gathering with family and sharing in the holiday season," said Col. William Sean Lee, state chaplain for the Maryland National Guard. "Because of the separation with the deployment, they can't do that. That's part of the quiet sacrifice of the military families. They'll never get that time back _ ever."
There was nothing greater for the Revesz family than the return home of their son, brother and friend _ U.S. Army Sgt. Brent Patterson.
Patterson just wrapped up a 12-month tour in Afghanistan. Before that, he spent 15 months in Iraq. The three-time recipient of the Purple Heart has not been home for the holidays in three years.
"It got to the point where it didn't feel like a holiday," Patterson, 23, said from his family's Frederick home this week. "It was another day just trying to stay alive."
Being holed up in bunkers, worrying about the next attack, eating MREs _ that's how Patterson spent his days.
"They would fight in the snow," Patterson said of the enemy. "They wouldn't take a break. They'd keep going."
The whole family was gathered at his family's Stonehouse Road home this week. A giant welcome home banner adorned the front porch. He'll be home until Jan. 2.
Family meals have been planned throughout the next week to try and spend as much time as possible with Patterson.
"I am so relieved to have him home," said his mother, Kathy Revesz. "Now our family is complete again."
For the holidays, there was no greater gift.
"That's the present right there," Revesz said, pointing to her son. "I can sleep at night."
Every night the phone was at her side, ready for a call that might come. Revesz said she didn't want to miss a call from her son, fearing it could be her last.
She got her son home safely, Revesz said, but there are still many others deployed.
"It still makes me cry to know there are people in harm's way," she said.
Patterson's younger sister, Shelly Revesz, is a sophomore at Gov. Thomas Johnson High School.
"I love it," she said of his return home. "I missed him so much. ... I can't describe it. It's just awesome."
Patterson still has eight months left, but it should be spent at Fort Polk, La. Part of the time will be recuperating from surgery to remove shrapnel from his shoulder.
"I don't have to go back again. I'm happy about that," Patterson said. "Where we were at, it was a war every single day."
Deployment overseas is difficult for the families that remain home, and the holiday season makes it that much harder to keep the spirit.
Air Force Civil Engineer Dereke Hicks of Frederick will spend Christmas in the Middle East, away from his wife, Megan Hicks, and their two sons, Julius, 4, and Jeremih, 5 months.
"The hardest part is just being by yourself, especially with kids," Megan Hicks said.
She tries to keep busy and stay positive, but her older son often reminds her of Dereke's absence by asking when his daddy will be home.
"When Jeremih cries, Julius tells me that it's because he misses Daddy," she said.
Dereke Hicks dedicates his spare time to his family, especially his children, when he is home and can be seen playing in the yard with Julius "like two little boys," said Alice Cromwell, Megan Hicks' grandmother.
Both boys have doll-shaped pillows with a picture of their father in uniform to carry around while he's away.
Dereke Hicks was deployed just after Christmas two years ago for his first tour and missed his eldest son's and wife's birthday, and Easter. He will miss them again this year, along with Christmas.
"The hardest part is him not being here, his laugh, everything," said Elliana Jones, Dereke Hicks' mother. "It's his second deployment during the holidays, you have to get used to it."
Hicks' decision to join the military was a spur-of-the-moment choice with one of his friends, said Jones, who thought her son was joking when he first told her.