Published: Nov 13, 2011 3:31 AM EST
Updated: Nov 13, 2011 4:31 AM EST

LEE COUNTY, Fla. - While many Americans look forward to being with their families this Thanksgiving, so many military men and women are forced to spend it apart from their loved ones.

For the Cabrera family, Thanksgiving comes with the usual fixings this year, but the holiday itself comes two weeks early.

Janie Cabrera just welcomed home her son Eric, after he spent 7 months in Afghanistan. The last time he was deployed, it was for 5 months in Iraq.

"Every time that he goes over there it's hard," Cabrera says. "But I'm just so glad that he's home."

The 21-year-old Immokalee High School grad has been a U.S. Marine for almost 4 years. In that span of time, he says, most holidays have been spent away from his family's home in Lehigh Acres.

"I've been home for one Christmas, and I've been in North Carolina for one Thanksgiving," Eric Cabrera says.

This November 24th will be no different  Although he's back from serving overseas, his vacation time ends Sunday, then it's back to work at his station in Camp LeJeune, North Carolina.

"We ship out tank parts, guns for the infantry, everything military, we send it out to the units in Afghanistan," he says.

For the family, that means setting their own date to celebrate.

So while they give thanks for their early feast, they also remain grateful for another family gathering.

Eric says it's all part of the sacrifice he willingly makes for his country.

"Whatever time we have with our family, we make sure we cherish it," Eric says. "As far as the time we don't get to spend with them, it's just another working day."

Eric isn't the only service member in his family who will be away for the holidays. His brother, who's serving in Iraq right now, could be back home after Thanksgiving.