Widow of hotshot describes 1st Christmas without her husband

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Andrew and Juliann Ashcraft Andrew and Juliann Ashcraft
This was the last photo Juliann received from her husband before he died battling the fire on June 30. This was the last photo Juliann received from her husband before he died battling the fire on June 30.

For the families of the 19 Granite Mountain hotshots killed battling the Yarnell Hill Fire, it was the first Christmas without them.

Juliann Ashcraft likes to remember times of fun, games and laughter with her husband, Andrew Ashcraft and their four children.

But the picture-perfect family was torn apart by tragedy. Andrew Ashcraft was one of the 19 Granite Mountain hotshots killed fighting the wildfire on June 30.

"We're just going to have to grit our teeth and bear it this year," Juliann Ashcraft said. "It's rough, you know, you don't want to celebrate anything."

Ashcraft said her family follows the same traditions every year.

"We would always put up our tree on Black Friday. Andrew would get all the decorations down and we would decorate as a family. He would set up the tree and then the kids would all put up the ornaments and after they went to bed, he and I would then go hang the Christmas lights outside the house," Juliann Ashcraft said.

Now, it's just her and the kids.

"It's been interesting now to do all my mom duties and once the kids go to bed, I realize I have to do the dad duties and it's exhausting, it is just so exhausting," she said.

But she said life with the kids must go on.

"They are on all the time so we don't have a choice to lay in bed and cry. You've got to go to work and do things for them," she said.

She believes things will get easier in time.

"He'll be with us throughout the years to come. There's no doubt in my mind. Hopefully there will come a time when we can think about him and smile before we cry. This year, unfortunately, we'll probably just spend a lot of time in tears on Christmas," she said.

Ashcraft said Christmas was made possible this year by the 100 Club of Arizona, a nonprofit group that provides aid to families of fallen officers and firefighters.

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