Iowa Soldiers Stay In Touch From the Battlefield

By Mark Geary, Reporter

Wendy Ford talks to her daughter, Army Spc. Brianne Roe, using a video chat program on Thursday, Feb. 10, 2011, from Ford's home in Coralville to Roe's base in Kuwait. (Liz Martin/SourceMedia Group News)

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By Kelli Sutterman

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - Specialist Brianne Roe, 24, of Coralville and serving with the 416 Transportation Company of the U.S. Army, makes a virtual visit to her mom’s house several times a week.

“You can really read a lot about your child’s well-being without them having to say one word,” Spc. Roe’s mother, Wendy Ford, said.

Internet video chat has become a popular way to calm concerns and keep military families connected. Soldiers serving overseas used to have to wait weeks or even months to communicate with family and friends in the United States. Now, the internet has changed everything.

“You just get that better feeling just to see your loved ones. Not just to hear their voice, but to see them.” Spc. Roe said.

Spc. Roe’s unit is stationed in Kuwait, surrounded by dust and sand. Her mom’s webcam acts as a window into a more familiar world.

“When it snows, mom or Steve (Spc. Roe’s stepfather) will take the webcam and turn it outside toward the patio door and I’ll try to see the snow. But, sometimes it’s too bright,” Spc. Roe said.

Not too long ago, soldiers missed out on those moments and often had to wait weeks or months to catch-up with family.

“If more than a couple of days go by and I’m not able to get ahold of her, I start wondering what’s up,” Ford said.

“It’s amazing. I can’t imagine what it was like years and years ago to not have this communication and this kind of technology,” Spc. Roe said.

Of course, the technology requires a strong internet connection which can stream video. Some moms, like Ford’s sister, Nancy Davin, must rely on email and text chats instead.

Davin’s son, Sergeant Tyler Davin, 27, of Oxford and serving with the 1-133 Bravo Company Infantry of the Iowa National Guard, is stationed in a remote part of Afghanistan with limited internet access. She created a blog to help cope with the separation. You can find her blog here.

“It’s actually very therapeutic just to be able to write down your emotions and walk yourself through it that way….just by expressing it in words before you have to deal with it,” she said.

Sergeant Davin recently spent a few weeks at home on leave and caught up on moments he missed… like his brother’s wedding. While nothing beats being in the same room as loved ones, the internet has kept him plugged in to life back in Iowa.

“When you get done with the mission, you’re not thinking about, ‘I’m so excited for the next one. I’m so excited to go out the next time.’ You’re thinking, ‘I can’t wait to get online and talk to a girlfriend, a brother, a mom or a dad or just a friend,” Sgt. Davin said.

After he saw his mom’s website, he decided to post his own thoughts and feelings.

“It’s an easy way to unravel what’s inside,” he said.

The soldier uses the blog to keep in touch and dispel misconceptions about his mission.

“The war has taken on a whole new face. Gone are the days when we lead the way. Now, it’s Afghanistan’s turn to take the lead,” Sgt. Davin said. “Someday, when Afghanistan’s back on its feet, it’s going to be clear who was there.”

Nancy Davin says people often compliment her son’s ability to express himself. “He writes with a lot of clarity and a lot of emotion,” she said.

Back at the Ford’s house, they’re getting ready for lunch. It’s a little after noon. Spc. Roe’s ready for bedtime. It’s almost 10:00 p.m. in Kuwait.

Although they live in different time zones, separated by thousands of miles, it feels like they’re saying good-bye and signing-off from the same room.

Of course, when soldiers go out on some missions they can’t always go online. But, they can give their families back here in Iowa a “heads-up.”

Many soldiers use a special code word or phrase to let their families know they won’t be able to talk for awhile.

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