By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Service men, women send messages to area families
Jay and Stephanie McNair enjoy time together Tuesday with their children, from left, Mason, 14, Maggie, 8, and Rachel, 11, at their Gainesville home. Jay is in the National Guard deployed in Afghanistan, but is at home in the middle of a two-week leave. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

"Love you, miss you bunch. Merry Christmas," Maj. Jay McNair said from Camp Mike Spann, Afghanistan.

When McNair filmed those words, as part of an annual effort by Army & Air Force Hometown News Service, the North Hall man wasn’t aware that he would be traveling to Indianapolis around Thanksgiving for a conference.

He was able to arrange taking his two-week leave, showing up at his family’s home on Thanksgiving Day.

"It was a surprise visit," said his wife, Stephanie McNair.

McNair, a member of the Georgia Army National Guard’s 2nd Battalion, 121st Infantry, heads back to South Asia on Dec. 20.

He plans to open presents and otherwise celebrate Christmas with family before he leaves.

"We’ll save some for the kids for Christmas, too," McNair said.

Other families won’t be as fortunate, as their loved ones will remain deployed in foreign lands through the holidays.

Hometown News Service tries to take some of the pain out of missing loved ones by arranging for military men and women, if they choose, to film the greetings.

The San Antonio-based agency then sends the greetings to U.S. news outlets.

"I like to hear (the messages) and I know they’re uplifting to the family who might not be able to talk on the phone a lot or e-mail a lot (with their deployed loved one)," Stephanie McNair said.

"It’s also sad to know that they’re not going to be home for the holidays. It’s nice to see a picture and hear a voice when you can’t do any better than that."

Jack and Nancy Turner of Buford received such a greeting last year from their son, Air Force Lt. Col. James Turner, who is stationed for two years at Incirlik Air Base in Turkey.

Jack Turner, who hasn’t seen the new video, said he appreciates the program.

"I think it’s fantastic," he said. "For those of us who are really interested, it’s a real treat. ... I just wish they could do it for more people more often."

The video features James Turner’s wife, Stacey, and the couple’s four children: Hayley, Summer, Chase and Nolan.

"We’re wishing you ... the best of holidays," James Turner says in the video.

In another holiday greeting, Air Force Maj. Majken Tutty wishes family members in Georgia a merry Christmas and happy new year.

"Love ya, guys," she said, waving her right hand and smiling.

She gave family a head’s up about the video, said her cousin-in-law, Mary Lecture, who lives in Gainesville.

"It was exciting for me (to hear that), and I felt good for her to be able to do that," Lecture said. "I think it would be important for her to share back here with everyone."

Tutty is stationed in Afghanistan.

"She’ll go back to Germany when that duty is done," Lecture said. "Her husband and daughter are in Germany and she is in Kabul right now."

According to the Hometown News Service, also sending video messages from the Hall County area are:

  • Air Force Capt. Ryan Ellis, who has family in Braselton and is stationed in Japan.
  • Army Lt. Col. Louie K. Payne, whose wife lives in Dahlonega and who is stationed in Afghanistan.
  • Air Force Staff Sgt. Hollye Williamson, whose parents live in Commerce and who is stationed in Qatar.
  • Army Capt. Mary Irwin, whose husband lives in Demorest and is stationed in Kuwait.
  • Army Col. Wayne Shanks, whose parents live in Gainesville and who is stationed in Afghanistan.