By Shannon Hamelund
For Nitza Jamias and her husband, U.S. Air Force 1st Lt Bryce Jamias, living overseas during the holiday season is their next great adventure. It’s an opportunity to spend time together, explore a new culture and give back to their military community – even when they’re homesick.
Nitza, a USO Osan Volunteer of three months and Bryce, a member of the 51st Munitions Squadron in the Air Force, have lived in Osan, South Korea, for six months. Both originally from California, Nitza and Bryce met in college while studying business administration. They were married in a small beach ceremony during the COVID-19 pandemic before moving to their first duty station at Naval Air Station Pensacola in Pensacola, Florida.
For the Jamias couple and their two dogs, Flash and Florida, South Korea is their first time living overseas and only their second holiday season away from their families. For Nitza, the hardest part about living so far away from home this time of year relates to holiday meals and time zones.
“I think it’s really about just being with our close, immediate family … Being able to have those conversations and share a meal together around the table. I think that might be the hardest thing,” Nitza said.
“And of course, the time difference is so difficult too because you’re a day ahead – you’re living in the future, so you have to call [home] post-Christmas.”
Being stationed overseas can be challenging for military families, but especially in locations such as South Korea, where your surroundings can feel especially unfamiliar, and home is so far away. They must navigate the challenges of their overseas location and military service (such as deployments) alone, without the help of their traditional support networks.
While stationed overseas, service members and military spouses are reminded daily that they are thousands of miles apart from loved ones and the familiarity of their home country – and during the holiday season, when most Americans are gathering to celebrate, this separation can be even more apparent.
To ease the sadness of holiday separation, Nitza and Bryce have dedicated themselves to staying busy. Used to persistently warm environments, they’re taking advantage of the changing seasons by going hiking with their dogs and skiing in South Korea.
They also committed to keeping to a regiment that includes taking their dogs to the dog park, staying involved with physical fitness and saying yes to social invitations. Nitza serves in a leadership role in the local spouses club, and both she and Bryce have also taken on the responsibility of coordinating holiday meals for Bryce’s squadron.
For Nitza, keeping the holiday blues at bay also means turning to the USO. She enjoys the services and programs offered at USO Osan and how they keep her connected to home, such as a big holiday lunch program from which she can take a holiday meal home to her husband, or the NFL Game Pass at the USO center, through which she can keep up with her favorite football team. However, Nitza has also found support through the USO in her service as a USO Osan Volunteer.
Volunteering with the USO has led Nitza to step outside her comfort zone and increased her confidence. It lets her connect to her fellow military spouses who share similar struggles, as well as learn about the lives of the active-duty airmen who also volunteer at the USO center, many of whom she has found are not that different from herself.
She has also found joy in serving side-by-side with Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) volunteers, helping them practice their English language skills. Additionally, Nitza is extremely grateful for the opportunity to learn from the experiences of USO Osan staff members and her fellow volunteers.
At the end of the day, Nitza says that being a USO Volunteer and thriving through what can be a difficult time of the year while stationed overseas comes down to having a place to directly give back to the military community and find a place to relate to others. For Nitza, that place is the USO.
“I think [it is] just getting to know my community and getting to really find a place where I can relate to people, call home and share our different experiences, sacrifices, stories and backgrounds so that we [can] really connect to one another.”
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