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National Guard members get final Thanksgiving at home before year-long deployment

Members of 265th Air Defense Artillery stationed in Sarasota will deploy overnight.

SARASOTA, Fla. — They’re home for the holidays, but not for long.  

Members of National Guard’s 265th Air Defense Artillery stationed in Sarasota will report for a year-long deployment overnight after getting to spend Thanksgiving with their families.

“We report for duty tomorrow morning,” said Master Sgt. Juan Sanchez. “Having our turkey came with a price -- so, zero dark early reporting for duty.”

It’s all part of life as a member of the military.

“When we deploy, were deployed for 365 days. So it may not be what holiday am I missing today or next week, but how many holidays am I going to miss next year? How many graduations, how many life altering events are going to happen during that time,” said Sanchez.

Even after 26 years, he says days like tomorrow will still be difficult.

“I’d like to say my wife is a pro, my kids are used to it, but the truth is you don’t get used to it. It’s always a challenge.”

Sanchez is determined to make the most of the time he does have at home. Not only is he serving his country, but on his last night at home, he’ll also be serving his family as the Thanksgiving chef!

“Keeping with tradition that everyone gets what their favorite thing is, everything is on the table,” said Sanchez. “My daughter loves mashed potatoes, my son loves the red potatoes that I make with some marshmallows and brown sugar. The turkey is going to be absolutely delicious! I spent three days on that turkey… it better be!”

He says the upcoming year away from home really does make one try to make every moment count.

“It’s a lot more special because you’ve been away before and you know how it is, so when you do get to spend holidays with each other it just becomes that much more enjoyable.”

Members of the 265th are tasked with air defense over the Nation’s Capital and will also be deployed in Europe. Sanchez says while being away from family isn’t easy, he couldn’t be more proud to serve his country.

“This happens 24-7, 365,” said Sanchez. “People like me have the honor and the privilege to defend this great nation and this great state and they can just rest easy. We’re doing our job. We’re doing it to the best of our ability. 

"I certainly get more out of it than I could probably explain to anybody out there. I love what I do, and this has been my life’s honor and I do it without any reservations.”

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