By Susanne Kappler, Fort Jackson LeaderJanuary 9, 2009
In a perfect world, Maj. Jason Perez would have been home Christmas morning, watching his two young sons unwrap their presents and enjoying time with his family. But this year, Perez spent the holidays at Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan, where he is in the final months of a one-year deployment with the 101st Airborne Division from Fort Campbell, Ky.
Yet, thanks to a joint effort between Army Community Service and the Directorate of Information Management, Perez's sons Matthew, 3, and Alex, 6, were able to share some of the holiday spirit with their father during a video teleconference Dec. 30.
"Fort Campbell does these (VTCs) kind of on a regular basis, but I'm not able to get there, so I was really excited to do one here," said Karen Perez, Jason's wife, who lives with her children in the Columbia area.
The children wasted no time showing their dad their Christmas gifts, which they brought to the Fort Jackson VTC Center.
"This was mostly for them," Karen said about her sons. "I wanted them to have something special, to see daddy. It's important. They miss him and pictures can do so much, but talking to daddy in person is a big deal."
The Perez family was one of 15 families who signed up for VTCs with their deployed Soldiers during the holiday season.
Patricia Guillory, ACS mobilization and deployment specialist, explained that the VTC was part of the "Hearts Apart" program, which assists family members during times of separation from their Soldier. She hopes the holiday VTCs will not be a one-time event.
"This is going to be one of our new additions to what we're doing for the families in 2009," Guillory said. "We're going to try to offer this at least quarterly, especially for holidays like Valentine's Day, Mother's Day and Father's Day."
Aretha Williams, VTC technician, takes special pride in the part she plays.
"Uniting military and family members through VTC is very rewarding," she said. "DOIM is pleased to be able to provide these services to our Soldiers."
For Karen, the VTC was a positive experience.
"It's been neat to have had this opportunity just to see him and talk with him and let him see (the children)," she said.
Her oldest son, Alex, only needed one word to describe what it was like to show his father his new toys.
"Cool," he said.