‘Christmas in June’

Dec 092003
Authors: Carl McCutchen

Leaving behind a loving family, good friends and a nice job are

always hard things to do, but not knowing when one might be able to

return to them can be even harder.

Heather Herrera, a major in the Colorado Army National Guard and

an instructor for military science who has been serving in Iraq

since January 2003, had no idea when she would be allowed to return

to her family and her job, until now.

Herrera was recently notified by her superiors that she will be

returning home from her command at Camp Victory in June 2004.

Abe Herrera, Heather Herrera’s husband, said the news about his

wife’s return was exciting for him and the rest of her family but

that June is still far away.

“When I got the word, it was enlightening, but it’s still months

away,” he said. “It’s hard to be waiting.”

He said he missed his wife very much and that he has still not

gotten used to her absence at home.

“It’s tough,” he said “Everyday is tough. It really rings it


Abe is not the only one missing Heather at home. Andrea Herrera,

a sophomore restaurant and resort management major and Heather’s

stepdaughter, said that after Heather left, she noticed there was a

void in some of the activities in her life.

“It was really hard when she left. It was hard because we used

to shop a lot, and get coffee, and then come home and bother my

dad,” she said. “It’s not the same to shop with dad.”

Andrea said she was looking forward to Heather’s return home but

that it might be strange getting to know her again because it has

been so long. She also said that despite not knowing if her and her

stepmother’s relationship will be the same, there are still many

things that she wants to tell her when she comes home.

“I look forward to telling her everything that’s happened,

getting back to know her again, hanging out and doing girl stuff,”

she said. “It’ll be strange because we haven’t been together in so


Recent attacks on military forces in the Middle East have caused

some worry for Heather’s family about her health and the

possibility of her upcoming return.

Mike McCormick, Heather’s father and the new construction

coordinator for Housing and Dining Services, said he was nervous

when his daughter left for Iraq and still gets nervous every time

he knows she is traveling. He also said his heart skips a beat

every time he hears something about an attack on the news, but he

hopes her whole company comes home safely in June.

“Anytime your child leaves and is in harm’s way, you are

nervous. The (times) we know she is traveling is still a long day

for us,” he said. “It is a constant worry.”

McCormick also said one of the things he has noticed the most is

that his daughter has missed many family events. Since leaving in

January, Heather has missed a whole year of holidays, many

birthdays, including her own, and a heart attack that her father


“One of the most difficult things is not having a family member

home for events. It really magnifies the situation,” McCormick

said. “We’ll probably have Christmas in June.”

Karen McCormick, Heather’s mother and the special projects

coordinator for the Lory Student Center, said that even while her

daughter was overseas she wanted to show her CSU spirit.

“One thing she asked for was a CSU flag. It hangs in her room,”

she said. “CSU has been her home, and an important part of her


Heather’s family members aren’t the only people feeling the

effects of her absence. Todd Habitzreuther, a junior microbiology

major and a former student of Heather’s, said he was excited to

hear about her return and looks forward to seeing her at the school


“It’s kind of exciting. It’ll be good to have her back,” he

said. “It was like losing a family member.”

Habitzreuther also said that since Heather has been gone he has

had no one to talk to.

“I didn’t have anybody I could go to. Now I just don’t feel as

comfortable,” he said.

Jamie Anderson, a junior equine science major and also a former

student of Heather’s, said she couldn’t wait for her mentor to

return so she can go see her in her office.

“It’ll be exciting to see her back in her office, sitting there

with a grin and her hair up,” she said.

Heather was unavailable for contact but her husband said that

she wanted to let the students know she still worries about


“Tell the students to study hard and pay attention,” she said in

an e-mail to her husband. “Tell them to be creative and think out

of the box, but know the rules and regulations.”

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