Webcasts keep troops and families connected
A California-based firm helps keep military families in touch via the Internet
This year, 29-year-old Amanda Cave is doing what most single mothers do: Take out the trash and put up Christmas decorations by herself.
With her husband, Army Chief Warrant Officer Jason Cave, gone, the toll has hit her. Yesterday, when she placed a webcast to her husband in Iraq, she fought back tears after her two boys sang "Jingle Bells" to their dad over the Internet.
"I don't sleep," Cave said. "You're scared the phone is gonna ring, or someone's gonna knock on your door. Every time I hear about a helicopter crash, I start to panic."
The Cave family's two-minute message was among dozens made to deployed Hawaii residents yesterday and Monday, thanks to WesCorp., a California-based company that provides credit unions nationwide with liquidity, cash management and other services.
The three-year-old private project, dubbed "Operation Best Wishes," was at the Kaneohe Marine Corps Base Hawaii's Windward Community Federal Credit Union.
WesCorp. developed a webcast studio for company training videos to be broadcast online, but WesCorp. public relations director Walter Laskos didn't want the equipment to collect dust while it's not being used.
"I thought, why don't we open our doors and invite military families?" Laskos said.
This year, Operation Best Wishes hits eight states with heavy deployments, including Hawaii, Washington, California and Alaska.
Loved ones have up to 10 minutes to tape messages, which range from videotaping a child's first step, announcing pregnancies, singing, pets, even gymnastic moves if space allows.
CRAIG T. KOJIMA / CKOJIMA@STARBULLETIN.COM
Webcast production manager Anita Santarelli, left, helped Emerson and Angie Bannister produce an "Operation Best Wishes" video message to their cousin Uri Ruaburo in Germany yesterday. The couple was with daughter Ashlynn. CLICK FOR LARGE
The deployed then receive an e-mail with a link to the video, protected by a password that only the servicemember and the family knows.
Amanda Cave sends and receives an e-mail at least every other day, often receiving a one-liner that goes something like, "I'm home safe," after a mission.
It's reassuring, especially because of news of so many servicemen dying in Iraq. Since the Kaneohe Marines' 2nd Battalion was deployed in late September, 15 of them have died. Its sister unit, the 3rd Battalion, lost 11 previously.
Yesterdays webcast was "absolutely" a difference in reaching out. Her husband was deployed in July and isn't due back until summer. He's already missed several birthdays, as well as his 3-year-old daughter's first time riding a bike and being potty trained.
When Susanne Ostberg was asked what her husband, Army Sgt. Carl Ostberg, has missed since his deployment, she asked, "Which deployment? This one or the four other times?"
Her husband has been deployed twice to Iraq before, and twice to Bosnia. She brought her three children yesterday to wish the soldier a merry Christmas.
"I have to do everything now. There's no shared responsibility," Susanne Ostberg said. "The dinnertime part gets hard, because that's when you expect him home."
Laskos said it's families like the Caves and the Ostbergs that keep the military machine running.
"Sometimes it's forgotten what's going on at this end, so the other one can be there serving the country," Laskos said. "I think it's something a lot of people should be respectful of."