Christmas is a time for mistletoe and twinkling trees, giggling children and brightly wrapped presents. Most of all, it is a time for families.

But for families of 321st Medical Detachment members, Christmas this year comes in a somewhat serious package."It will be our first Christmas without Pop," said Joe Goodman Jr., a student at the University of Utah. "I know we won't be dancing around the Christmas tree while he's gone."

Instead, Joe Goodman Sr.'s family will keep his presents wrapped and waiting for his return from deployment with the detachment - presumably to Saudi Arabia - as part of Desert Shield.

The detachment was called to active duty Thursday. The 50 Army reservists will remain on active duty for 180 days, but their exact destination remains unknown. Saturday their families talked with the media.

For the family members they leave behind, the uncertainties cause the worry. "As each day (toward deployment) grows closer, the knot in my stomach grows larger," said Joe's wife, Leeann.

While holiday cheer may not be quite the same with loved ones sweating it out in the Saudi Arabian desert, family members nonetheless are unanimously supportive of their husbands and fathers.

"It's so important they know their families support them and that their country supports them," said La-Rhonda, whose husband serves as a maintenance supervisor with the 321st.

"My husband's a pilot and has been for 24 years. We've been through the Vietnam War together," added Sharon, whose husband is a test pilot in civilian life. "My husband is in the Army because he believes in his country and stands behind it. And we hope our country is behind him, too."

For some, the separation means yellow ribbons on the trees outside the family home. To others, it meant an early Christmas dinner and the exchange of presents.

"We'll try to make Christmas as normal as we can, for the kids sake," said LaRhonda, who will be spending Christmas with her daughters, Nichole, 4, and Olivia, 2.

"But it's hard," added Rachael, a 14-year-old. "I know he's doing the right thing, but it's hard to enjoy Christmas without him."

For Joe Goodman Jr., it's a time of mixed feelings. He wholeheartedly supports his father and his father's commitment to do whatever his country asks of him. But he is not necessarily supportive of the reasons given as to why America is in the Persian Gulf.

"But I can't and I won't protest or burn flags or whatever," he said. "My father's over there and it would be like stabbing him in the back."