ALBANY, Ga. -- As Kelly Abbe describes for a visitor what it's like facing the holidays with her two young sons while husband Jake is serving his country in Afghanistan, she is the picture of motherhood calm in a household storm.
One-year-old Ryan is crying, 2 1/2-year-old Will is bouncing around wildly on a jumpy toy, and family pets Annie, Decker and Cody are barking menacingly at the stranger in their presence.
Abbe answers her visitor's questions with a preternatural calm, dealing with the domestic turmoil swirling around her with a reproachful look, a loving pat and a shouted command.
But that Marine-wife calm and control cracks a bit when she talks about the little things Gunnery Sgt. Jake Abbe is missing while he's away.
"It hits me at different times, more so when the kids do these little things that Jake misses out on," Kelly Abbe says, her voice breaking a bit and tears filling her eyes. "He's going to miss Christmas, and Will really gets it this year. And the other day Ryan took his picture down, held it to him and said 'da-da, da-da, da-da.'
"But I know Jake is doing his part for our country, so I have to do my part. My days can get stressful, but I have a comfortable bed, a hot shower and all the goodies that he doesn't."
Gunnery Sgt. Abbe, a 16-year Marine Corps veteran who arrived at boot camp the day after he graduated high school in Oklahoma, met Kelly Hill when he was stationed with the Marine detachment at the Army Proving Ground in Aberdeen, Md. Hometown girl Hill was working as a graphic designer at the Army Proving Ground.
Theirs was love at first sight.
Unfortunately, Abbe was transferred across the country to 29 Palms in California a couple of months later. Thereafter, Kelly Hill took the four-hour flight to see her man at least twice a month, and in April of 2004 the couple married. Four months later he was deployed to Iraq.
"One of the things I learned early is that I had to share my husband with the rest of the country," Kelly Abbe said. "Sure, that can be frustrating at times, but I've never regretted it. He's doing what he's been trained to do."
The Abbes were transferred to Waco, Texas, for three years after Jake Abbe returned from Iraq, and from there the young family was uprooted once again and sent to MCLB-Albany in 2008.
"You just have to stay positive," Kelly Abbe said of the frequent moves that are a part of the military life. "You make the best of where you are and always remember that everything you do is getting you closer to your forever home.
"Summers are rough in Albany, and I'll never get used to all the bugs. But the people here are very nice, and I have wonderful neighbors. I get great support from my family -- my dad calls me every day, and I stay in touch with my friends on Facebook -- and my neighbors do little things for me that are just wonderful. I think they know that every little act of kindness to support me also supports Jake."
Gunnery Sgt. Abbe recently re-enlisted for what he says will be his last four-year stint with the Corps. His young wife has resigned herself to the fact that "we've probably got one more move before he gets out," and in the meantime she's doing everything she can to help her sons adjust to the absence of their dad.
"We'll be at my parents....through the New Year, so I'm sure the kids will have a great time," Kelly Abbe said. "Jake and I e-mail all through the day -- I have to tell him about the latest 'Will-isms' -- and he calls when he can, usually every couple of days.
"The boys obviously miss their dad -- you can ask Will what a Marine says, and he'll say, 'Oo-rah, semper fi, double-dog' -- but we try to stay busy enough to keep from being worried."
And though it's difficult at times, the young Marine wife embodies the words of the poet John Milton, who famously wrote, "They also serve who only stand and wait."
"What it comes down to, ultimately, is that I am so proud of Jake," Kelly Abbe said. "He's a Marine, one of the best of the best. And I want him to be as proud of me as I am him."