Archive for Thursday, December 30, 2004

Holiday quiet for soldiers’ families

December 30, 2004

Several Lansing families knew the holidays wouldn't be the same this year with their loved ones serving overseas. What they didn't expect was not being able to talk with them on Christmas Day.

With the widespread use of Web cams, cell phones and computers, technology has made contact between families and soldiers overseas much easier now than in the past. But on Christmas, soldiers trying to contact families back home bombarded the phone lines and Internet, making it nearly impossible to communicate with loved ones

Tracy Hutton, a teacher at Lansing High School, has two family members serving with the Army in Iraq. Usually her family comes together during the holidays. This year, she didn't get even an e-mail.

"It's hard because Christmas is such a big deal," Hutton said. "Normally we all gather to celebrate Christmas, but this year everyone was spread out."

Her brother, Brian Bubb, works with the military police and has been overseas for two years. Hutton's younger sister, Vanessa Monfort, has been serving in Iraq since the summer.

Hutton's family has depended on Web cams and the Internet to stay in touch. But on Christmas, soldiers overseas had to wait in long lines for computer access, and Monfort wasn't able to speak with her sister, Hutton said.

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The Southard family of Lansing also had problems reaching a family member, Amy Southard. They defaulted to sending broken up messages through cell phones after failed attempts to get in touch with her via Web cams.

Southard has been serving as an Army nurse in a combat support hospital at Camp Diamondback in Mosul, Iraq, since December 2003. She usually e-mails her family four to five times a week and calls them weekly.

Christine Southard, a Lansing High School senior and Amy's younger sister, said her family felt incomplete without Amy home for the holidays.

The Southards were still able to send presents to Amy, and she sent them presents from Iraq.

Even without the Christmas Day phone call, Christine trusts that her sister is safe in Iraq.

"You get that sister intuition, and I have a feeling that she is going to be just fine, I just trust it," Christine said.

Evelyn Little, a Lansing resident, spoke with her son, Patrick, on Christmas Eve. But overworked phone lines prevented Patrick, a Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient serving the Army, from calling Evelyn on Christmas Day, she said.

Patrick's sister, Kathleen Jones, usually talks to her brother weekly. Jones, who also lives in Lansing, said she recognized the added worry during the holidays for those who have loved ones overseas.

"You always want your family to be together; it's a lot of stress" if it can't be together, Jones said.

For all of the families, a phone call or e-mail can't match the comfort of having their soldiers return safely to the States.

"I just wish he was back home," Evelyn said.

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