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We're just a few months away from football season. But already there's been a lot of interest in season tickets and Vol memorabilia. The idea of a new coach has injected a renewed optimism for the future of UT football.More >>
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SEYMOUR (WATE) - Christmas is just six days away and while most of us are decking the halls, many military families are preparing to spend the holidays without their loved ones.
Christmas won't be as bright for one East Tennessee mother.
Rhonda Milliam's son joined the Navy 17 years ago. This is the fifth time he's been deployed, and the 14th Christmas he will be away from home.
"I wish that we could do it. I want every year to be able to do it. It's... you never give up the hope. You know, you think, okay! It's this year, we're going to get to be home for Christmas this year, and it's sad," Milliam explained.
Her son, Chief Petty Officer Bill Kegley is stationed in Honolulu, so she doesn't see much of her son and his family when he's not deployed.
On Christmas, she waits for her son to call.
"I sit on needles and pins and wait, because I never know what the time difference is going to be. So when he can call, or wherever he's going to be able to call from, you know, you just hold your breath, and when the phone rings, you just fall over."
Another family won't be waiting for that Christmas phone call.
Brian and Alison Shilling lost their son in 2006, when he was killed in action in Iraq.
"He was always the first, don't matter what time he went to bed, he was always the first one up on Christmas day. He would always wake his sisters up, 'c'mon, let's go, let's go'. It was as much the opening the presents as it was the dinner afterwards," said Brian Shilling.
They say it hasn't gotten any easier in the past six years, but that they try to keep up the holiday spirit.
"We've had six Christmases, and I know there's a lot of them that this will be their first Christmas, and yes, it's the hardest thing to do, sometimes to even decorate your house or bring out the Christmas tree, because it hurts," Alison Shilling said.
The Shillings say the holidays are difficult, but they surround themselves with family and friends to help ease the pain of their loss.
Both the Shillings and Milliam say it's important to be around people when family members can't be home for the holidays.