Monday, August 30, 2004

Leinaala Kanana tried to get her 8-month-old daughter, Emma, to look at her father, Spc. Daniel Kanana, who is in Iraq with the Pacific Army Reserve's 411th Engineer Combat Battalion. She was among the 30 families who went to Fort Shafter yesterday to talk with soldiers in Baghdad via a satellite video-teleconferencing link.

Families link to Iraq
via satellite

Technology helps Hawaii-based soldiers
stay in touch through brief video sessions

Eight minutes. That's all Spc. Daniel Kanana had yesterday morning to get his first glimpse of his 8-month-old daughter, Emma, whom he last saw in March when he left for Iraq.

Kanana, 36, a carpenter-mason with the Hawaii Army Reserve's 411th Engineer Combat Battalion, was in Baghdad, where it was nearly 1 in the morning.

His wife, Leinaala, 26, and their daughter were at Fort Shafter with 30 other 411th family members who took part in the third satellite video-teleconferencing call with loved ones in Iraq. There were separate by several thousand miles and 14 hours.

In the privacy of one of U.S. Army Pacific's video-teleconferencing rooms, family members got a chance, albeit very briefly, to catch up and talk almost face to face with their soldiers in Iraq.

For many the brief conference helped with the separation and the anxiety caused by the war.

Leinaala Kanana, a 1995 Waianae High School graduate, said: "It took me 45 minutes to drive here from Waianae and wait for more than two hours. But those few minutes were really worth it.

"My husband doesn't write very much. He calls when he can, but it's better to hear his voice than to read a letter. You don't get to hear his emotions in a letter."

During yesterday's call, Emma seemed more interested in chewing on the television monitor's remote control or her mother's cell phone.

But she did perk up when she heard her father call her name.

She beamed every time he said "Emma."

"My two beautiful ladies," Kanana called his wife and daughter just before a teary-eyed sign-off. Kanana has been a member of the Army Reserve for 17 years.

The family of Master Sgt. Gregory Thompson, an operations sergeant with the 411th, opened their call by reciting in unison:

"Roses are red.

Violets are blue.

We love you, Dad.

And we miss you, too."

"We try to do something different each time we call," said wife Tracy, who retired from the active Army with 20 years of service in 2001. The couple have six children, with three of them -- Kharel, 16; Kharyse, 15; and Khaliyah, 9 -- attending yesterday's session. His wife said that by the time the Iraqi deployment ends next spring, her husband will be eligible to retire with 20 years of service.

The first few minutes of their call were spent recounting Radford High School's 27-7 victory Saturday over Moanalua High School. Kharel, a senior, is a running back for Radford.

"I didn't get into that one," Kharel told his dad, "but it was a good game."

Sgt. Thompson told his family that it was 122 degrees that night in Iraq. "It's so hot," Sgt. Thompson added, "that people just come back from work and crash."

Tracy and her three children proudly took the time to show their dad the photo button of him that his mother -- Janice Thompson -- in Michigan had made. "I think she took one of the pictures he sent from Iraq," said Tracy Thompson, "downloaded, printed and made it into a button and gave it to everyone. She even sent a bunch to Iraq."

After the call, Kharel said, "It was almost like he was here."

"It's his presence that we miss most," his mother added.

"I like being able to see him in person," her sister Khaliyah added. "It's not the same with phone calls or letter. ... It's more fun to see him."

516th Signal Brigade, "Voice of the Pacific"



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