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Troops and Technology

New technology has provided many of America's servicemen and women with a way to keep in close contact with their families back home. KSMU's Missy Shelton reports.

Video teleconferencing allows Melinda Cuna who is stationed in to see her children who are in Springfield and they get to see her...There's 9-year-old Brandon and little Trinity...And 14-year old Nikki.

Through satellite uplinks, Melinda is able to see and talk to her children, who have come to the National Guard Armory in Springfield for their third teleconference with their mom.

This time, though, it's extra special because it's Brandon's birthday.

But Brandon seemed more interested in watching his mom as she smiled at him through the tv screen than worrying about what happened to his birthday balloons.

This type of communication opportunity is not available to all troops. It just so happens that Melinda's Military Police unit, the 1138th out of Springfield has access to the video teleconferencing facilities.

Staff Sergeant Randall Wall has been with the Missouri National Guard for 15 years and he remembers what it was like for troops overseas during the Gulf War.

But there can be a downside to having all these communication capabilities. Some say families get used to daily contact with their loved ones and then, when the emails or phone calls stop, they worry. That's what happened to Tonia Harris whose 20-yr-old son Justin Hatcher is also in Qatar.

But all was well Thursday evening as she sat looking at her son on a tv screen, talking to him about where he'll live when he returns to classes on the Drury University campus in the Spring.

Of course, no technology is perfect. There is quite a delay as the audio and video gets sent from Springfield to Qatar. And Tonia Harris says that can make for some awkward moments.

Families usually have 30 minutes when they do a video teleconference. And with only a small amount of time to talk, Tonia says there are certain things she avoids.

Justin Hatcher and Melinda Cuna expect to be back in Springfield around Christmas time. And already Melinda's daughter Nikki has made plans for her return.

Nikki knows her mom is only teasing her...Because she can see the smile on her mom's face...Soon, it's time for Melinda's family to leave. Her parents are there with the kids and they all wave at their mom before the satellite link goes out...

Families around the state of Missouri have access to video teleconferencing but it's up to individual troops to set up a time to use the technology.