Local News

Donations Needed to Keep Troops in Touch With Loved Ones

Posted July 13, 2007

— A non-profit organization is asking for the public's help to ensure it can continue to keep military families connected.

The Freedom Calls Foundation provides video conferencing services to let families interact with loved ones.

John Harlow said he started the program in 2003 after hearing about a soldier who had a $7,000 phone bill from talking to people back home and was unable to get assistance to pay it.

Each family is allowed 30 minutes to talk with their loved ones, with the organization paying for the equipment and satellite time needed for the connection. Officials said donations are starting to run thin, however.

Videoconferencing can run $23,000 a month, they said.

The technology is available in Iraq at Camp Taji, Camp Fallujah, Al-Asad Airfield and Camp Victory. The organization hopes to put eight more videoconferencing centers in Iraq and two in Afghanistan.

Staff Sgt. Michael Beal and his wife, Patricia, are separated by thousands of miles. But on Friday, it was almost as if he was home again.

“Look at Daddy, honey,” Patricia said to their 9-month-old son, Logan.

Serving with the 325th Infantry in Iraq, this soldier hasn't seen his son since he was 2 months old.

"For families and people with young kids, this is what keeps us going,” Patricia said.


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  • GulfWarVet Jul 15, 2007

    While I served back in '90 with the 1st AD in Iraq and Kuwait, there were very few services available to us. As I was a scout, we ended up sometimes a hundred miles ahead of other troops, and no way to "call home". Heck, we'd be doing well to get mail at times. But, we'd eventually had a chance to call once the war was over. A twenty minute call cost me well over $2800, and cost the receiving party another $500. There was no way for me to know at the time what the related costs would have been.

    I think its ROBBERY what AT&T does, exploiting soldiers... and feel personally that anyone serving over seas should have access to FREE telecomms. Especially where soldiers are required to pull 4-5 back to back tours in theaters of conflict, WHICH IS UNSPEAKABLE and UNHEARD OF.

  • GulfWarVet Jul 15, 2007

    Dang Yankee, as for your suggestion about using a webphone feature using a webcam, Im not sure the Govt would allow that. Loose lips sink ships has long been the motto. All conversations were monitored while I was over there and just like a television program, to a degree, they can censor certain comms for the security of the armed forces where need be. Add in a different service, there's no way to monitor/regulate what is said or seen.

  • tmedlin Jul 14, 2007

    no way eddy - that's probably what he hears more than anything...
    looks like an excellent program to me

  • SpunkyGrits The One and Only Jul 14, 2007

    Well well well. Tough guy had my comment removed; guess you didn't do KP since you can't take the heat or the truth.

    I am glad that there are some people who have hearts and care if those protecting our freedom are able to keep in touch with their loved ones at home. God bless our troops!!!!

  • nowayeddy Jul 14, 2007

    Boo Whoo, I joined the army, they never said it meant more than sitting here in my safe house and collecting VA benefits, they never said I might have to go to war. Cowboy up, and shut up. Do the job you were paid to do. It is embarrassing to hear our troops cry how home sick they are. They did not cry when they stuck their hands out for a free college education, 100% financing for their homes, etc.

  • 3potato4 Jul 14, 2007

    Whats wrong with the Watts line (not sure if that still the name but it is still the same service)? My son is on his third deployment and could call home every day if he chose to and it costs nothing to him. This service has been in place for as long as I can remember and it's provided by the military.

  • At Work Jul 14, 2007

    I think this is great, the only thing is why doesnt the army offer this to the familys? It could be a once the month thing. It really helps these guys to hear from family it really keeps them ground and from losing it. Getting mail and such just makes there day like you would not imagine.

  • nowayeddy Jul 13, 2007

    SpunkySouthernGirl42, no, i do not like to talk to my family on the phone while someone is trying to kill me. I would want to get back to them, so I would be focused on fighting. Enough said. go text your boyfriend, how romantic???????

  • nowayeddy Jul 13, 2007

    SpunkySouthernGirl42, you would call a cell phone a necessity while you are in a fire fight. good thing little girls don't make decissions as to what is necessary in war.

  • nowayeddy Jul 13, 2007

    DangYankee,you dribbled"Iraq may not have an air force or a navy, but they've got determination to do away with Westerners, which can trump an awful lot. Besides, they're already here, have been for years, melding with American, British, etc, society. I believe they're called "sleeper cells". Put down Cindy Sheehan's resume, try talking to the servicemen and women involved with intel operations or who have fought in Iraq."
    you have got to stop listening to the cartoon channel being broadcast from the whithouse. saddam had no connection to terrorism. or have you been asleep for the last 4.5 years