A SERVICEMAN from Tyneside will be spending Christmas apart from his wife – even though they are both serving with the Army in Afghanistan at the same time.
Lance Corporal Alisha Henderson and husband Corporal Paul Henderson, who is from Newcastle, were deployed to Helmand Province in September.
The pair, who are army chefs, work with different units, which means they never get a chance to meet up.
They are both on their second operational tours, but it is the first time they have been deployed over the same period, arriving in Afghanistan at the beginning of September for a total of six months.
L/Cpl Henderson, who was born in Edinburgh and brought up in Galashiels in the Scottish Borders, serves with the 1st Battalion The Mercian Regiment (1 MERCIAN), and Cpl Henderson is part of The Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment (1 LANCS).
L/Cpl Henderson, who turns 24 on Christmas Eve, said it is difficult being away from her husband of five years, and Christmas will have to be “just like any other working day”.
The couple met six years ago during an army training course, and got married the following year while on holiday in Cyprus.
The pair from North Yorkshire, just got back from a two-week rest and relaxation (R&R) period, which is given to all soldiers who are serving for more than four months at a time. They celebrated Christmas early with a curry lunch cooked by Cpl Henderson’s father, which he traditionally makes for the family on Boxing Day.
Over Christmas, L/Cpl Henderson will be at 1 MERCIAN’s forward operating base in Shawqat, while Cpl Henderson, 29, will be working about 30 miles away at Patrol Base Attal.
L/Cpl Henderson said: “I suppose it’s just the same as any other couple. We’re both out here and both doing a job.
“It’s a bit hard as obviously I can’t just pick up the phone when I want and ring him whenever I like, and vice versa.
“We get to speak to each other twice a week, on Saturdays and Tuesdays – we try and keep it to 9.30pm each time because we’ve both got commitments.
“With Christmas coming, we’re in the mind-set that it’s just another working day. It’s how it has to be.
“Even though we can’t be together, it’s still a bit of a support mechanism knowing he’s out here too. We both understand what the other one is going through.”
Cpl Henderson said: “It’s hard being apart. We do get to speak once or twice a week but never actually get to see each other. We’ve just had our R&R break together and that’s the first time I’ve laid eyes on her in three months. It will be another three or so months before we see each other again.”
L/Cpl Henderson added that, despite the fact that they are both chefs, she likes to leave most of the cooking to her husband when they are at home.
“He does the cooking and I do the dishes,” she said.