Local News

Donations Needed to Keep Troops in Touch With Loved Ones

Posted July 13, 2007 1:28 p.m. EDT
Updated July 13, 2007 11:58 p.m. EDT

— 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.