Library service keeps families 'in touch'
July 17, 2009
- MAJ Kristen Vondruska deployed on July 8, but before she left, she recorded several stories on Video Messenger for her kids
I'm listening to my mommy," 3-year-old Kate Vondruska said.
Kate's mom, MAJ Kristen Vondruska, deployed to Iraq July 8, but Kate and her 5-year-old brother, Mark, can hear and see her whenever they want. It's called Video Messenger, and it lets Soldiers record messages to their loved ones while they're deployed or Temporary Duty. The free service is available at Sayers Memorial Library on Main Post.
Most people choose to read books to their children, but the service is versatile, said Nancy Wahlstrom, technical services librarian at Sayers.
It could be a veteran who wants to make a video for his grandchildren, a Soldier who leaves a "love letter" to her husband while she deploys, or a dad who mails home a message to a baby born while he's out of town, Wahlstrom said.
The DVDs, mailing envelopes and library books a person chooses to record are free, and there is a private room in the library where patrons can record the videos.
"It's to support the troops and the families," Wahlstrom said. "It gives them a tool to interact with their family when they're deployed, in the field or TDY. They see their face, hear their voice. (It) just keeps the memory alive, especially for young kids."
Mark and Kate are keeping the memory of their mother alive with the help of several books and Bible stories Kristen recorded in the week before she deployed.
Mark said he enjoyed listening to his mom read on Video Messenger.
"She has a much smoother voice (than anyone else). It makes me kind of sleepy," he said. "It's just special to me. She loves me so much; I really know because of this, my book."
Kristen learned about Video Messenger through her husband, MAJ John Vondruska, who recorded several books for their children while he was in Kuwait last year.
"I knew the value of the program firsthand," she said. "My children loved watching the videos of Daddy reading them a book. It provided a connection that was invaluable - to see Daddy's face and hear his voice doing something that they loved and was an integral part of their nighttime ritual."
Because they were recorded in Kuwait, the background noise was distracting, Kristen said, so when she heard that Fort Benning offered the same service, she jumped at the chance.
"The setup at Fort Benning is incredible," she said. "It's in a private room with simple, yet quality equipment that produced a clear recording. And it is completely free of charge. When I came home with the stack of DVDs and books, my son couldn't wait to watch them. It lightened my heart and eased the guilt of leaving him as I listened to him chuckle as he turned the pages as I read. I know part of me is with him while I am so very far away."
The family plans to watch at least one video a week during the yearlong deployment.
"This is going to give them an opportunity to see their mom every week," said John, who returned from Iraq in March. "It reinforces the bonding - just another avenue to keep everybody in touch as much as possible. The kids are really excited. It definitely keeps their interest; even Kate at 3 wants to flip to the right pages. I think they really liked seeing their mom on TV and having that interaction with her reading books. It's a great program."
Appointments are not required for Video Messenger and there is no limit on the number of DVDs a person can record.
For more information, call 706-545-7141.