Maggie: For the more than 1 million troops who are currently deployed, being so far away from home is not only tough on them, but it is tough on their families. Right, Keith?
Keith: You are right, Maggie. But thanks to new technology, our troops are able to spend more time with their loved ones and even share a family meal.
Alison Simerly’s father made it just in time for dinner.
Alison: Hey, dad.
Colonel Mark Simerly: Hey, sweetheart.
Keith: But Army Colonel Mark Simerly won’t be seated at the family table in Belton, Texas. He is in Kabul, Afghanistan, ten time zones away. Simlerly’s children have seen him more on their phones and computers than they have in person.
Alison: I’m not really bothered by the fact that it’s a virtual dad.
Keith: Because of FaceTime, Alison, who is a junior at the University of Texas at Austin, has been able to stay connected in real time.
Alison: A lot of times when I’m talking to him, I’ll show him the outside.
Keith: Her younger brother Luke says the stress of a missed call can be overwhelming.
Luke: It’s devastating, you know, because he’s making the effort to reach out to you. A lot of times, we’ll answer the call and the connection won’t go through, and so it just drops and he doesn’t call again. And so, it’s kind of…you know, it’s right there but you can’t make it happen.
Keith: School psychologist Mark Pisano counsels military families.
Pisano: To get a text from a parent who’s in a war zone saying that they’re fine is a lot different than being able to see them on a video screen saying that they’re fine because then you can visually see that they’re fine.
Keith: Each year, the Department of Defense invests billions in family support programs, and providing tech support is now a key part of their approach…even in here.
Army Specialist Najee Eldridge dialed-in to witness the birth of his child in Afghanistan.
Specialist Najee Eldridge: I was like, ‘I’m not going to cry, I’m not going to cry.’ Like, that’s what I tell them. And I kind of, like, broke down.
Keith: After his daughter Nyla was born, he stayed in constant contact with her through the computer. His wife Brittany says the technology sealed an emotional bond long before he came home.
Brittany Teary: He wasn’t there when she was born, and almost two months later for him to hold her. She knew his voice when she saw him and she went right to him.
Keith: Skype allows deployed service members to function more as a family. For the Simerly’s, that connection doesn’t completely erase concerns.
Luke: I’ll tell him everything’s going alright because I think the last thing he needs is to worry about us.
Pisano: It’s not a hug, but it’s the next best thing. It’s that sense of psychological stability that comes from being connected.
Keith: And making every moment count.
Colonel Simerly: Okay, bye. I love you.
Alison and Luke: Bye. I love you too.
Keith: If you want to do something to support military families, head to Channelone.com to get some ideas.