By Paula NardellaMay 21, 2009
FORT RILEY, Kan. - For many military Families, high school graduation is a time of high spirits and celebrating the beginning of a new chapter in their teens' lives. Sometimes, however, Soldiers can't be there to share this moment with their Families due to deployments.
To help with this, Fort Riley offered Families of deployed Soldiers the option to have a video teleconference with their Soldiers on commencement day, which for the new alumni of Manhattan High School was at 2 p.m. May 17 at Kansas State University's Bramlage Coliseum.
Prior to the ceremony, two Families sat in the shade behind a trailer pulled by a white pickup truck waiting for the opportunity to use the VTC, which allowed users to both see and hear each other.
In the trailer, Audrey and Valerie Walker sat waiting to talk to their Soldier, Gen. Keith Walker, who is currently deployed to Iraq.
"It's an important moment," Audrey said after talking to her dad, glad he could be there in some way.
Although some Family traditions will have to be put on hold, such as the book Keith always reads to his children when they graduate high school, Valerie said being able to see her husband on their daughter's graduation day meant a lot to her.
"It's a big deal, and we appreciate the effort," Valerie said.
The Valencia Family was the last Family to use the VTC during Manhattan's commencement.
Melanie Valencia, who was graduating, said seeing her dad for the first time since October was an emotional experience for her, but she was glad the VTC gave her the opportunity.
"I'm glad he can see graduation," she said.
Curtis Blanke, visual information officer, said it took a coordinated effort between people stateside as well as the Soldiers' units for the VTC to be a success, but that it was well worth the effort.
"In my opinion, it's like a care package," Blanke said.
The VTC equipment took about an hour to set up from the time the team arrived on scene. The equipment will be used again May 24 during the Junction City High School graduation.