Michael M. Novogradac is the Public Affairs Officer for the U.S. Army Operational Test Command at West Fort Hood, Texas. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army file photo)

By Michael M. Novogradac, U.S. Army Operational Test Command Public Affairs 

Christmas is coming fast, tree lightings are taking place all around us, and Soldiers will soon be taking block leaves to travel home or have families come for a visit.

We celebrate with holiday traditions and try to create new ones of our own to remember and cherish for years to come.

As Americans, we tend to tune the radio to holiday music stations, shop for and pick out the best Christmas tree we can find, all while looking forward to Christmas day with an advent calendar we made.

Driving the neighborhoods to admire Christmas light displays is one of the more colorful traditions to follow, making it the most wonderful time of the year.

Secret Santa gift exchanges at work are always a blast, throwing numbers in a hat and losing your gift to someone else, unless everyone forgets about the gift you are cleverly trying to hide.

Baking cookies and building gingerbread houses gives children the chance to actually play with food and make something in the process.

The holidays do not always require spending a bundle of cash. You can take on designing your own decorations, ornaments and wreathes, or making a present for a loved one using your own two hands.

Whether you listen to classical Christmas music by Dean Martin, Frank Sinatra, Bing Crosby (there’s a few names most won’t remember), or modern-day versions by Mariah Carey, Gwen Stefani, or even Billie Eilish, keeping traditions with your family is what matters most.

Any financial planner or advisor will tell you not go into debt over the holidays. Hopefully, you’ve saved little-by-little throughout the year, so focus spending on what you can afford. Don’t acquire a new debt you will be paying for an entire year.

We cannot leave out our Veterans who came before — we all share the same identity and are inspired by each other to fulfill our oaths to our country — so spending time together is what is most important.

And don’t forget how inviting that single Soldier with no plans into your home for the holiday meal can make all the difference in the world.

Try also to give back to those less fortunate; maybe a food locker or pantry near you, because in days of old, neighbors helped neighbors even with clothing items, putting up trees, and decorating outside.

Also consider hand-writing a classy thank you note to those folks who are important to you. Such manners still matter and go a long way to impress that grandmother or special someone who considered you.

One last holiday tradition you cannot let slide — get out your address book and mail your greeting cards early.

Even with the holidays upon us, the drumbeat of responsibility to defend our nation still requires selfless commitment from everyone wearing the uniform and those Army civilian employees who support Soldiers on point at far away locations throughout the world.