LAYTON -- To keep busy while her husband was deployed for the last several months, Jessica Heck of Layton decorated a donated Christmas tree in his honor.
It was on display at the Festival of Trees at the South Town Expo Center in Sandy until Dec. 3.
But even better than having a tree on display, Heck got to welcome her husband home early from his deployment just days before the tree was set up at the festival.
"I feel honored and lucky to have such a wonderful wife to do that for me," said Kyle Heck, a master sergeant serving in the 419th Fighter Wing at Hill Air Force Base.
Having attended the Festival of Trees numerous times, Jessica Heck always wanted to decorate a tree for the event. However, she could never find the time.
This year's deployment of her husband, during the holiday season, spurred her into action.
She hopes the tree, decked out in red, white and camouflage decorations, will help people understand what it is like for those serving and for their families during holiday deployments.
"They are away from their families for the holidays and doing it to help other people," said Kyle Heck. "Also, we forget how hard it is for the people back at home and the amount of things they deal with by themselves."
A 10th-grade teacher, Jessica Heck adapted to doing things on her own in an empty house -- things like cooking dinner for herself, fixing appliances when they break and raking the leaves in her yard.
"When you're used to having a partner do half the load, and suddenly you're doing it all yourself, it's tiring and an adjustment," said Jessica Heck. "Also, he's my best friend. When I have a bad day, I can't pick up the phone and call him like I usually would."
When deciding to decorate a tree for the Festival of Trees, she knew she wanted to do something that meant a great deal to her. In past years, she remembered noticing only a few trees honoring the military.
"I knew no one would know it better than me, and I love supporting my husband," said Jessica Heck.
Robyn Austin, Publicity chairwoman for the Festival of Trees, was particularly touched by Heck's story.
"I think it's a tender story since she is doing this for her husband who has been deployed," said Austin. "It is a great thing for us to focus on our (Airmen) who are protecting us every day. Sometimes they are overlooked with some of the other stories."
This is Kyle Heck's fourth deployment in the last several years.
For the couple, who have been married almost two years, this is his second deployment during their time together.
"He absolutely loves serving his country. That is why he has been as successful as he has," Jessica Heck said.
Meanwhile, Jessica Heck's mother, Jeanine Wilson, has seen how lonely it can get for her daughter during the long months of deployment.
Wilson hopes her daughter's tree will help make others aware of those in similar circumstances.
"I just hope that during the holidays, they remember both the members of the military and the families who are apart," she said.