Far Away but Still 'Close to Home'
While Sgt. 1st Class Jonathan Henderson is deployed to Qatar with the 19th Battlefield Coordination Detachment, his family (left) Julianne, 11; Tanner, 5; wife, Amy; and Tegan, 8, make a greeting to him through the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern "Close to Home" program, which is available at the Yellow Ribbon Room on Pulaski Barracks in Kaiserslautern.

KAISERSLAUTERN, Germany - It may not be "real" time, but it is family time for those serving downrange and loved ones back home.

It's called "Close to Home," and the U.S. Army Garrison Kaiserslautern program offers a way - free video-messaging - for deployed servicemembers and their families to remain in touch.

"This is just another avenue for families to stay connected," said Selinda Torbert, the garrison's Army Community Service outreach coordinator.

How it works, she said, is that families record a 15- to 30-minute message on a digital video disc in a quiet setting of the garrison's Yellow Ribbon Room on Pulaski Barracks. Once done, the families can take the disc home and send it downrange.

Families can make as many discs as they want to while their loved ones are deployed.

"Every time you send a care package downrange, you can have ... a close, personal and intimate conversation with (the) servicemember," said Torbert.

A grand opening was held last month in the Yellow Ribbon Room to showcase the new program. Among the families checking out "Close to Home" was that of Sgt. Jonathan Perkins, who is deployed to Iraq with the 66th Transportation Company.

"I think it is a pretty useful resource other than just e-mails or letters back and forth," said Sergeant Perkins' wife, Kyla, who, along with their children - Emma, 8, and Thomas, 10, did a quick message to him because he was returning soon.

"We just told him that we miss him, and we are glad he's on his way back because it's been a real long time," said Mrs. Perkins. "We're ready to have him home."

Emma said she told her dad that she wanted to take him to see the movie "Hairspray" and that she was glad he was going to be here for her birthday.

Going to a haunted house was what Thomas talked about with his dad.

Benefits of this program outweigh the real time of video teleconferencing. The biggest benefit, said Torbert, is families don't have to worry about the time difference in trying to coordinate with their loved ones to be at the computer at a specific time.

"It's actually something you do here at the garrison - at your convenience - and then pop it in the mail," she said. "And then (the deployed servicemember) can press rewind and see you time and time again."

Page last updated Fri July 22nd, 2011 at 12:16