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Families Talk Face--to-face Miles Apart

Pvt. Samantha Hall, 11th Public Affairs Detachment

Date: Posted: 05.10.2010 11:01

PORT-AU-PRINCE, Haiti - 05.10.2010 When Soldiers from U.S. Army South deployed, many were told to prepare for at least a six month deployment, but hope for three. With that in mind, Soldiers said goodbye to families and headed to Haiti in support of Operation Unified Response. Although many families keep in touch via phone, email and Facebook, very few have been able to video chat with their loved ones.

Thanks to technology and some coordination between Joint Task Force-Haiti and U.S. Army South, Soldiers at LSA Dragon were able to spend 10 minutes a piece talking to families and loved ones, May 7, following a family readiness group meeting via video teleconference.

"My wife and I talk a lot through Facebook chat, but seeing them [live] is a big deal," said Lt. Col. Scot N. Storey, headquarters commandant, JTF-Haiti, deployed from U.S. Army South. "The thought of seeing them and to be able to see how they've changed in the past couple of months is kind of cool."

Storey has two children still at home, one 14 years old, and the other 16. While deployed, Storey had to miss his son's birthday.

"I was very excited that I got to talk to my wife and children, especially my children," Storey said. "It was a very nice touch to see them for a little while."

Several other Soldiers were able to talk with their families.

"It was great to be able to talk to [my son] and see him after a couple months," said Sgt. 1st Class Leslie Hawkins, non-commissioned officer in charge, secretary of the joint staff, JTF-Haiti, deployed from U.S. Army South. "We talked about what he has been doing and he told me about my other sons who weren't there."

Hawkins deployed about two months ago to assist in the relief efforts in Haiti. In previous deployments she was able to do video chats, but this was the first time she was able to in Haiti.

Sgt. Theresa Linn, information systems specialist, Forward Detachment, 56th Signal Battalion, deployed from Fort Sam Houston, Texas, also spent a few minutes talking to her husband, Henry Linn, and her 15-month-old son, Caleb.

"I'm very excited I got to see them over video," Theresa said. "It's sad that I can't be there to see Caleb through all his stages of walking, but now that I've gotten this VTC, I feel a lot better. I look forward to being home with them."

This is Theresa's first time away from her son. Henry, who brought Caleb with him to see his mom, was just as happy to see his wife.

"It was really cool," Henry said. "I really enjoyed seeing her and so did my son. We're both happy to see her."

During the couple's VTC, Caleb showed off his walking skills and acted shy towards his mom on the video screen.

"He doesn't really recognize her, but he walked around for [Theresa]," Henry said.

The couple got to talk face-to-face about their son, how tall he is and the things going on during the day.

"He's been getting bigger, walking and running around," Henry said. "I know [Theresa] misses that."

With today's technology, Soldiers are able to keep in touch with families and friends a lot easier through Facebook, Myspace and Skype, while still using emails, phone calls and letters. The VTC gave families the ability to see their Soldier and made that 10 minute conversation all the sweeter.

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