As people around the Coastal Empire and Low Country get ready to ring in the New Year, thousands of families are preparing for a bittersweet holiday. Many military families are just days away from saying goodbye to their loved ones for a year or longer.
WTOC spoke with several last night, who told us this is a very difficult time for them. They're grateful they have the holidays together this year, but it won't make saying goodbye any easier.
When Times Square rings in the New Year, you won't find the Hammonds in New York City or even at City Market. They'll be spending a quiet New Year's at home. "My New Year's will be spent with my family, my dog, Chico," Sgt. Luther Hammond of the Third Infantry Division. "We'll probably barbecue a little bit."
"Just with family and friends," added wife Glenda.
In just a few short days, Sgt. Hammond will say goodbye to his family to deploy with the division to Iraq. They'll be gone for at least a year. It's his fifth deployment, and by far, the longest. "The longest I've been gone is nine months. So this, this is really...it's all right. At least I've got the holidays out of the way."
"It's hard, but I just tell him to do what he has to do and come back home and be safe," said Glenda.
Sgt. Miguel Antia is spending his last few days at home, moving his family to a new one, across town. "I just try to spend a lot of time with my family and I'm just getting packed and ready for our new house," he told us.
It'll be difficult being away. While he's in Iraq, his son will turn three and his wife will give birth to their second child. "It's pretty hard because you leave your family and things change," he said. "My little boy was just born the first time I left and now he's two and I'm pretty sure he's going to be three and a half...it's going to be a long deployment."
For many soldiers and their families, the memories they carry with them won't be what they did over the holidays, but rather, with whom they spent it.