KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Thousands of American troops are spending this Christmas Eve far away from friends and family.
Merry Christmas from Africa. That is the holiday greeting in 2020 from Master Sergeant Kenny Harvey deployed overseas this year with the Knoxville-based 134th Air Refueling Wing of the Tennessee Air National Guard.
“He’s been away since about the summer, so it’s been a little while," said Brandi Harvey, wife of Sgt. Harvey.
Brandi is grateful too for advances in technology.
On this deployment, her three children can talk every day, sometimes several times a day to their military dad.
“That has been wonderful, but to be where they are the wifi is wonderful," Brandi said. And years ago, we had to Skype and it was, you know, you may get to talk to them once a day or maybe not, you know, so like almost every day. And that's what's kind of held us together, I think too
State leaders say more than 500 Tennessee Air and Army National Guard troops are spending the holidays far from home this year. The high point 10 times than 5,000 deployed one recent Christmas in the post-9-11 era.
For Brandi and her children support comes from other family members and her church family.
“That's, that's been wonderful to have," Brandi said. And we always know that somebody is there with us. Always trying to keep us busy doing something even though in the back of my mind, I know what they're doing. But they're trying to keep us busy. So we're thankful for that.”
Brandi keeps looking on the bright-side.
“Just being able to talk to him is going to make all of our days and know when they're, we're right there," Brandi said.
Her husband is away again at Christmas, but she kept expressing gratitude.
“We are grateful and thankful for all the military families as well," Brandi said. I know we are one, but we are really, we know what it means and we are truly, truly grateful.”
In addition to overseas deployments, more than 500 Tennessee troops are deployed across the state working on the state response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
That includes more than two dozen citizen-soldiers working inside hospitals during the Christmas holiday.