STURGEON BAY, Wis. (NBC 26) — Some take Christmas as a time to open presents.
Others eat dinner with their families.
But for nearly seven years, Joseph Tachovsky's father spent much of the holiday at war.
"He didn't have any type of Christmas other than what happened in the Corps at all until maybe 1946 when he got back home in Sturgeon Bay," Tachovsky said.
His dad, Frank, was a Marine during the World War II era. A pile of letters written by the lieutenant to his wife document what Dec. 25 was like as a deployed soldier almost 80 years ago.
"He would've been aboard the USS Maryland one year," Tachovsky said. "He was in Iceland when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor another year. Then he was on Guadalcanal."
The former Sturgeon Bay resident never spoke about the war while he was alive. But his son finally learned about the experience after he found the Christmas letters in 2011.
"Here, Christmas is such a special time of year," Tachovsky said. "But when in combat, they might even lose track of what day it is."
His father's notes inspired Tachovsky to write a book about the platoon called "40 Thieves on Saipan." In the process, he discovered his dad didn't expect much on the holiday.
"They might only know it's Christmas Day because the big treat was to get an orange and a can of beer," he said.
And without same-day shipping, some were forced to plan months in advance.
"He acknowledges Christmas packages arriving on Guadalcanal on Jan. 29," Tachovsky said.
But whether it arrived on Dec. 25 or some time in February, the letters Tachovsky's parents sent each other were the real presents of Christmas during World War II.
"It was the wonderful gift that they could give to each other were these letters," Tachovsky said. "It was a craft. It's an art."
And even overseas, writing helped the marine feel closer to Northeast Wisconsin for the holidays.
"That was life and that's what made letters from home such a joyous and precious thing because it brought them back a little bit," Tachovsky said.