Jamie Oberg, News 9
OKARCHE, Oklahoma -- "I love you all very much and I'm sorry I couldn't be there. I'm here with my Marines and you know that and the only other place I'd rather be is with y'all."
Sgt. William Means has lost count of the number of mom's home-cooked holiday meals he's missed while serving in Iraq and now, Afghanistan. This is the Marine's 5th deployment.
"I'm lucky enough to have a big group of guys who've all come together," Sgt. William Means said. "We're one big family is what it is."
While Sgt. Means is with his Marine family a world away, the rest of the Means' family is in Okarche, OK trying to get through Thanksgiving.
Mom, Dee Ann stays strong...most of the time.
"It's hard to have him…away from home," Mom Dee Ann Means said trying to stay strong.
The proud mom, raised two military boys...one Marine (Willie) and Yancy Chappell, a Navy man.
Yancy was taken from his family too soon, in a tragic motorcycle accident in August of 2007.
Dee Ann had to be strong, she married an Army Medic; they don't make them much tougher than Vietnam Veteran, Larry Means.
"It scares ya, but I have enough faith in him to say ‘Yah, he's gonna come home,'" Dee Ann said,
After the first deployment, her worst fear was getting "the phone call" or any phone call in the middle of the night. really. Now, she can't wait to hear her baby boy's voice on the other end saying he's safe and coming home soon.
"It's easier knowing he volunteered. He wants to be there. It's what he's living his life for," William's sister, Jami Read, said.
Read admits it is harder talking on-camera about her little brother than what the family tries to focus on--Willie's homecomings.
If you ask his sisters, Keri and Jami, they might say their baby brother Willie is overdue for some teasing back home, and, of course, Black Friday shopping.
"He was like, ‘I've been to a couple of war zones now, and I've never felt as threatened as I felt when I was in line with those women...ha ha,'" Keri Tranthem said as the sisters laughed.
This Thanksgiving they had all six of their children sitting beside them on the couch, all anxious to see their uncle Willie as well.
"Holidays, especially this one, she's [Keri] vertically challenged, she's about 4'5" so I'm kind of her defender on black Friday," Sgt. Means teased back.
Remembering good times helps families like the Means' get through the holidays on the home front,
But it was harder for Sgt. Means to be away when his father got sick.
"It's hard knowing Dad's going through hard times right now, but this is where he'd want me to be." Sgt. Means said. His father says he is exactly right.
"If every fourth family in the United States had a son that was as thoughtful as that boy over there, the world would be a better place," Larry said.
Larry says he is keeping things in line and things are fine on the home front. He misses Willie immeasurably, sure, but it's always mission first with the Means family as they wait out another holiday, waiting for Willie to come home safe.
"I couldn't ask for a better family," Sgt. Means said from Afghanistan Thursday. "I love 'em and I can't wait to see 'em."
WEB EXTRA, TOO CUTE TO PASS ON THIS ONE…
** When we asked Sgt. William Means what he tells the other soldiers who may not be from around here, about Oklahoma, he said proudly, "Tell them it's where the greatest football team comes from...Oklahoma State."