CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Almost 200 local soldiers will be heading to Afghanistan in January. But first they are desperately trying to get home for Christmas.
The problem is most of them can't afford it.
Lauren Cole is a 23-year-old newlywed waiting to finish her first Christmas tree with her new husband.
“I’ve wanted him to be here to help me decorate,” she said.
Lauren Cole married her high school sweetheart at the end of March.
“And then we found out in July he was gonna get deployed,” Lauren Cole said as she started to cry.
Thomas Cole and almost 200 other area Army reservists are in Wisconsin training and will head to Afghanistan in January.
“When they were little I could fix things with a band aid,” said Lisa Cole, soldier’s mother. “When they grow up and go off to war you can’t fix that.”
There is something Thomas Cole's mother is hoping she can fix.
“That would be the best Christmas present,” she said.
She's trying to help get her son and the others home for the holidays. The group's been granted 10 days leave. But the problem is they found out last minute, so the price tag is $35,000 and that's just for a 17 hour bus ride.
“A lot of these men and women that are over there they don’t have the funds that others do so it’s harder for them,” Lisa Cole said.
The soldiers are from York, Lancaster, and Chester counties where unemployment rates have hit 21 percent.
“They still have bills, they still have family,” Lisa Cole said.
Not all of them can afford the bus ride home so a military volunteer is working with the families to help raise the cash and make sure the Cole's finish their first tree as a married couple together.
“I’ve had one Christmas without him when he was deployed last time and that’s the time of year when you're around family that I miss him the most,” said Lauren Cole.
“And we want everybody to be home for Christmas,” Lisa Cole said.
UPDATE: The Family Readiness Group said on Wednesday, Dec. 9, that viewers have pledged enough to bring the soldiers home. Thanks to all who donated!
If you’d like to help, you can contact the Family Readiness Group of Rock Hill at 803-417-8600 or you can send donations to:
Family Readiness Group
126 Museum Road
Rock Hill, SC 29732