December 25, 2006
Thousands of families are spending Christmas without loved ones who are deployed overseas, but technology gives them a chance to spend it together.
"We just miss him, basically" said Stacey Ford.
James Robert Ford both a husband and father has been deployed for the last 14 months and is currently serving in Iraq.
"We sent him a box with old fashion candy," said daughter Jamie Ford.
"He didn't want items because he has to bring them back home with him when he comes. We sent him things that we do at Christmas at home. We did the nuts, the orange slices, the old fashion Christmas candy," said Stacey.
Most importantly he got a visit from his family. The University of Virginia hosts a program called Freedom Calls, which allows families to speak directly to their soldiers deployed in Iraq by video conference.
"When we get to see him, it's almost like he's in the room with us. It's like he's really there. You just have a connection. You get to look into his eyes, you get to see his face, his gestures, his motions, so it's just nice to actually look at him and see him say the words," said Stacey.
Several volunteers spent Christmas at the office so these families could share theirs, with loved ones who are away.
"It's been a very rewarding, very heartwarming program for us and it's usually a two or three hankie operation when we finish with the families here," said Richard Settimo of the Office of Telemedicine at UVa.
But perhaps, James's mother sums it up best.
"Blessed, I can say blessed, a blessed Christmas," said Doris Ford Veney.