Holiday wish granted for Lake Geneva family
So the Dalzell family got together and pitched in: Parents, aunts and other relatives sent in whatever money they could scrape together so Alex could buy tickets for himself and his wife, Amanda. Their 5-month-old son, Lucas, flew for free.
After all, having the family together for the holiday was all parents Bill and Deborah Dalzell of Lake Geneva wanted from Santa this year.
"I'm a family person," said Alex, who lives in Hawaii with Amanda and Lucas. "The hardest part was being away from my wife."
Lucas was born while Alex was in Afghanistan. He watched the birth via Skype, a software program that uses the Internet to transmit video and audio between computers.
Now that he's back in the United States for the next year, Alex is easing into the role of father and will spend the holidays with his family in Lake Geneva.
Alex, a Badger High School graduate, didn't think he would join the military. He decided to join the Marine Corps after high school, when he was struggling to figure out what to do in life.
"I wanted to do something more, something bigger," Alex said.
Communications were difficult when Alex was gone, so the family is thankful for having him home for the holidays.
Being first-time military parents is a tough task for Bill and Deborah Dalzell. They check the news daily and try to stay in touch with Alex as much as possible. Because they don't know Alex's whereabouts, they can't call. So they patiently wait for his weekly phone call.
At one point, Bill said, news outlets reported an insurgent attack on a Marine base. Bill and Deborah played the waiting game, hoping Alex would call and tell them everything was OK. It was almost a week and a half before he called home to say he was fine.
"You wake up praying, and you go to sleep praying," Deborah said.
Alex is a corporal working with military communications.
His middle brother, Billy, is a lance corporal in training at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina. Billy will be back home Dec. 28.
The youngest brother, Nick, is a recent high school graduate and works at the family-owned restaurant, Fischer's Bar and Grill in Lake Geneva.
Alex and Amanda in January will have the church wedding they have always wanted, and the whole Dalzell family will be present. Then the couple and baby Lucas will return to Hawaii, from where Alex will return to Afghanistan in late 2010.
"The second-time around is going to be harder," Deborah said.
But the parents are prepared. They have been in close contact with military families, who give them tips on surviving the constant worries of having a son in a war zone.
"You have to try to stay as far away from the news as possible and just wait for him to call," Bill said.
And call is what Alex will do—whenever he gets the chance.
"Whenever you're free, you don't go to sleep," he said. "You call home."