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Family Finds Connection to Deployed Mom Online

By Ian Graham
Emerging Media, Defense Media Activity

JOINT BASE MYER-HENDERSON HALL, Va., April 20, 2010 – The Klein household was fairly typical: mom and dad worked, and their two rambunctious boys kept them busy the rest of the time. Mom was the snuggler, the reader of bedtime stories, the primary source of emotional support for the kids.

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Jim Klein, left, and his 9-year-old son, Joshua, type a message on Hallmark Channel's "Meet My Mom” virtual wall Facebook page. Hallmark Channel is celebrating Mother's Day on Facebook by creating an interactive page where viewers and deployed servicemembers can keep in touch with families by submitting photos, testimonials and videos as a tribute to their own mothers. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess
  

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So when Air Force Lt. Col. Nancy Klein received orders to deploy to U.S. Central Command headquarters in Tampa, Fla., the rest of the family wasn’t quite sure what to expect -- especially Jim Klein, who will be the sole parent until his wife returns in May.

“Each family has its own set of challenges, and I don’t think ours are any worse or better than anyone else’s,” Jim said. “But it’s been very challenging for me.”

Jim made every arrangement he could to ease his family’s strain during his wife’s deployment. He spoke to people at his sons’ schools and the staff at the child development center here so they knew to expect signs of stress, and he hired additional help to keep the house running smoothly.

Jim said his older son, 9-year-old Joshua, stepped forward and took a lot of responsibility on himself – perhaps more than he should at his age.

“My wife thought it was the worst-case scenario [for her to deploy],” he said, explaining that although he was close to his children, she was the one who offered solace and comfort with each hug and kiss. “We’re continuing to adjust.”

“I miss her being around me and talking to me,” Joshua said. “I miss her kissing and hugging me. I miss her in every way.”

One big adjustment is coming up – this Mother’s Day on May 9 will be Nancy’s first without her children. Jim said due to his children’s ages -- his younger son, is 4 -- he thinks the holiday won’t affect them nearly as much as it will affect their mother. They’ll continue to miss her, and they’ll know it’s her special day, he said, but it will be especially hard for her.

“She takes on being a mom to our boys as a big part of her identity,” Jim said. “So this Mother’s Day, she’ll remember that she’s not with her boys – it underscores the separation.”

But with every policy change that’s been made regarding deployments, external changes have come to ease the strain. The Kleins have made extensive use of Skype, an online video chat application, to stay in touch. Joshua and Zachary can see and speak with their mother, show her their school work, and talk as if she’s there in the room. Nancy can read books to the kids and show them the pictures to follow along.

“E-mail and phones have been OK, but having the visual, ‘face-to-face’ contact is really the best for us,” Jim said.

“I talk to her as much as I want because I love her so much,” Zachary said. “I miss her so much.”

Another venue they’ve discovered is the Hallmark Channel’s “Meet My Mom” virtual wall on Facebook. On the page, deployed troops and their families at home can upload photos of themselves and their moms, 60-second videos, or text messages. The page went public yesterday, allowing the shared messages to be seen by anyone who visits.

The page is tied in with the upcoming movie “Meet My Mom,” the story of a divorced mom who falls for her son’s pen pal, a deployed soldier. The show will premiere May 8 on the Hallmark Channel.

“OK, guys, what do you want to tell mom for Mother’s Day?” Jim asked, his kids piled in his lap at a computer, ready to post a message on the virtual wall. “Should we say ‘I love you,’ or ‘We miss you’?”

The boys whispered between themselves, then quietly dictated a message to their dad.

“OK,” Jim said. “That sounds good.”

 

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Related Sites:
Special Report: Month of the Military Child

Click photo for screen-resolution imageJim Klein, left, holds son Zachary, 4, as son Joshua, 9, talks about how he feels about his mother being deployed, especially during Mother's Day. Hallmark Channel is celebrating Mother's Day on Facebook by creating an interactive page where viewers and deployed servicemembers can keep in touch with families by submitting photos, testimonials and videos as a tribute to their own mothers. DoD photo by Navy Petty Officer 1st Class Molly A. Burgess  
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