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Christmas Comes Early For Soldier's Family

Updated: Wednesday, December 19 2012, 07:47 AM EST

There are over 170,000 soldiers deployed overseas this holiday season, and for many mountain families there will be an empty spot at the table, and
presents shipped instead of opened by the tree.

The Cope's are lively.

A mom, dad and four kids, and it seems like there's only one subject that can make them quiet: the oldest son and National Guard soldier Chris, who won't be home for Christmas.

"I don't know," said mom Wendy, when asked what the holidays would be like without Chris, who the family describes as a "goofball". "I really don't know until the day comes. I know that his jokes will be missed, and just having him here."

"It's not the same at the house you know without him, we can see it in mom and dad - it bothers them a lot that he's not here," said younger brother Colin. Sister Kala admits she misses Chris more than she thought she would - and the ritual Christmas breakfast will be tough without him there.

Chris enlisted in the military as a junior at R.S. Central High School in Rutherford County. Now, he's based in Kuwait. His locations at a given time and the missions he's on are often kepy secret from the family. The last time the whole family talked to him was Thanksgiving Day.

"We had a very tearful conversation on Skype," said Wendy, adding Thanksgiving was the first major holiday any of the kids had been away from home for. But conversations with him are rare.

"We never know, if we get online and we can catch him, then we get to talk to him," said Wendy.

But Tuesday - with cameras rolling Colin - a wrestler like his older brother - who's constantly looks for Chris online from his barracks, got lucky.

He spotted Chris on Facebook and most of the family was able to sit and have what'll likely be their Christmas conversation with Chris.

By Ashlea Surles
Follow Ashlea on Twitter @AshleaSurles

Christmas Comes Early For Soldier's Family

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