Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Military Families Talk Any Way They Can; Instant Communication Lets Soldiers and Their Relatives Keep Each Other Posted on Their Daily Lives

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Military Families Talk Any Way They Can; Instant Communication Lets Soldiers and Their Relatives Keep Each Other Posted on Their Daily Lives

Article excerpt

Byline: MATT COLEMAN

It's easy to take instant communication for granted with the accessibility of cell phones and the Internet. This becomes a little more difficult when the person you're communicating with is in a war zone.

Now it has recently become more difficult for servicemen and -women to contact family members through some popular Web sites. A Department of Defense policy went into effect this month blocking access on military computers to sites like MySpace and YouTube, networking tools many soldiers used to update friends and family about their lives overseas.

But families are making do and speak with their deployed relatives using whatever means necessary -- cell and Internet phones, e-mails and blogs -- and many will be doing so this Memorial Day.

Mark Middlebrook of Jacksonville said his son, Mark M. Middlebrook, a specialist for the 82nd Airborne currently stationed in Baghdad, calls home just about every day on his cell phone. This deployment has been easier on the Middlebrooks because Mark has his own phone and he doesn't have to wait in line to make a call.

"It's great to get that call and know he's OK," Middlebrook said. "But it's a mixed blessing because if he doesn't call, then we get worried."

The Middlebrooks have also taken to sending DVDs to their son to "show him a slice of home."

"We send an eight- to 10-minute DVD to him once a week," Middlebrook said. "It's just a visual way to let him know how everything is going at home."

REACHING OUT WITH E-MAIL

Julie Walther's son, Jason McCarthy, is a communications specialist with the Army's Special Forces and has been in Iraq for the past three months. Walther said she communicates about once a week with her son via e-mail.

"The communication has been fabulous," Walther said. "I had a message waiting for me on Mother's Day, and it made it feel like he was close to home."

A Starbucks employee in Jacksonville, Walther used her connections with the coffee chain to provide her son and his fellow soldiers with a much-needed caffeine fix. She set up a donation bin at her work where employees and customers could send items to her son's regiment. …

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