December 7, 2011
By Jennifer M. Caprioli, Drum
FORT DRUM, N.Y. — Holiday greetings were tied with a bow, wrapped in a virtual package and sent through cyberspace to deployed Soldiers and family members on Dec. 6, during Operation Best Wishes recording sessions at the Commons.
The Operation Best Wishes program, which marked its fifth year at Fort Drum, gives family members an opportunity to record a video message for their deployed Soldier or family member with whom they can’t spend the holiday season.
The Defense Credit Union League helps co-sponsor Operation Best Wishes, which is a national program that credit unions bring to military installations during the holidays. Fort Drum’s AmeriCU branch is part of the Defense Credit Union.
“(Operation Best Wishes) gives family members an opportunity to send a live video cast to a deployed family member or Soldier,” explained Tina Wildhaber, AmeriCU regional manager. “It gives family members another venue to communicate with their deployed Soldier. There are still Soldiers (who) are deployed that cannot see their family. This gives us an opportunity to (provide that).”
At each installation, the program’s production crew with sets up a mobile webcast studio and allows families up to 10 minutes each to record and send a special greeting to their family members. The deployed loved one then can either watch the webcast message live or access the archived recording from a secured website. The webcasts stay archived for 90 days.
“It’s a way for us to give something back to those family members (who) aren’t going to be with their loved ones at holiday time,” Wildhaber noted.
“We wanted to do something special,” said Tiffany Dietter, whose husband, Sgt. William Dietter is deployed with 3rd Brigade Special Troops Battalion.
She said even though they use Skype to talk to their father, her children, Isaiah, 3, and Alexa, 2, were excited to send a video greeting to their dad.
“My husband will not expect it,” said Sara Cotleur, who decided to send a video greeting to her husband, Spc. Michael Cotleur, a Soldier deployed with 1st Battalion, 32nd Infantry Regiment. “It’s a way for me to show him I’m OK, so he doesn’t have to worry about me.”
Just like last year, the Operation Best Wishes production crew stayed well into the evening to accommodate family members.
“Fort Drum is one of the most-deployed installations, and I know family members whose (Soldier) has been deployed six times, so anytime (we) can give them an opportunity to (communicate) is good,” Wildhaber said.