By Kristen Miller
DASSEL Like US Marine Staff Sergeant Matt Lehto of Cokato (profiled last week), Alvin Ploog of Dassel will also be spending Christmas apart from his family this year as he serves an eight-month tour in Afghanistan.
Ploog, a 2008 Dassel-Cokato graduate, was deployed in October and is serving in Afghanistan in the second battalion second Marines, based out of Camp Lejuene in Jacksonville, NC.
He and his wife, Alyssa (Nelson), also a 2008 DC graduate, are still newlyweds and will celebrate one year of marriage Dec. 30.
The couple is also expecting their first child in June, with the hope he will be home for the birth. Ploog is expected to be home mid-May or the beginning of June.
As the son of Pat and Bru Ploog of Dassel, Alvin’s presence will surely be missed this Christmas season, since it will be the first Christmas they will be spending apart.
“Alvin always has an infectious laugh and a great sense of humor that will be missed this year,” Bru said.
“He is the one in the family that dresses goofy, wears the Santa hat, and genuinely has fun,” she added.
In the couple’s three years together, this was also the first year Alvin wasn’t home to help Alyssa’s family cut down their Christmas tree.
Since Alvin enlisted in the Marines just five months after they started dating, Alyssa knew this is something he has always wanted to do.
“I knew what I was getting myself into,” she said, and is very supportive of his decision.
In Alvin’s first letter he wrote to Alyssa, he apologized to her for putting her through a deployment.
“I just have to keep reminding him that we’re in this together, and I’ll always be here and will always love him,” she said.
“We’ve both said that we think the distance really brings us closer together. We never take for granted the time we actually do get to spend together,” Alyssa said.
The couple only gets to talk to one another about once a week, and there is no Internet yet where Alvin is stationed.
There is only mail and satellite phones, she said, which when they do get to talk, they are either disconnected or the reception is bad.
Limited communication is something the couple has gotten used to, since the three months Alvin was in boot camp, the only communication was in letters.
Then, the three months Alvin was in school of infantry, Alyssa would only get a phone call on the weekend.
“We think that our relationship is much stronger because of everything we’ve already had to go through even though we’re young,” Alyssa said.
The couple live in Jacksonville, NC, where Alvin is based out of, but Alyssa is spending the holidays home with her family in Cokato.
Because she is able to be home with her family, Alyssa thinks this time of year will be harder for Alvin and the other troops.
“We can do the same things as in the past, but he can’t,” she said.
In Afghanistan, the spirit of Christmas is alive and well for Ploog and the rest of his platoon, however.
The family of a fellow platoon member sent them a 6-foot, white Christmas tree.
Though there are no lights and no ornaments, they were suggested to decorate it with candy wrappers and a deck of cards they received in a care package.
Alvin also received a Christmas care package from a stranger in Connecticut.
In it was a small Christmas tree with battery-operated lights, ornaments, a santa hat, a stocking, and canned ham, which Alvin was very grateful for, according to Bru.
Currently, Alvin is working with the local Afghan army/police and is learning the language and customs. He is also teaching the Afghan police English and how to fight, according to Bru.
“Although I am very thankful for young men and women like Alvin who are willing to make this sacrifice, I will miss seeing that smile on Christmas morning and feeling that big hug,” Bru said.
“I am sure a few tears will come as we look at the childhood ornaments and the unopened presents under the tree, saved for him to open when he returns; but overall, I can’t help but be thankful and joyful for his sacrifice,” Bru added.
Alyssa will just try and focus on Alvin coming home and how special next Christmas will be for the couple.
“It’s really all you can do. If you focus on him being gone and him maybe not coming home, I don’t think you’d be able to get through a deployment,” Alyssa said.
“You really have to stay positive, especially for them,” she added.