GREENVILLE — With the holidays fast approaching, many area families are thinking about their loved ones serving overseas.
Thanks to modern forms of communication such as Facebook and Skype, communicating with those in service is easier than ever. Many military personnel are serving in Afghanistan and some local families are sharing their experiences of their own children serving.
Greenville High School graduate Taylor Brandt, 22, joined the Armed Forces and went to basic training in June 2010. His father, Jon Brandt of Lowell, said one of the reasons for his son joining the Armed Services was for his son’s now 3-year-old daughter, Madison.
“Basically the economy was down,” Jon Brandt said. “Taylor was worried about insurance and affording college for her and he was very concerned about the future he could provide for her.”
Taylor is a member of the 173rd Airborne. He started serving in Afghanistan in July and is expected to be there until mid-March.
“I am very pleased with him,” Jon Brandt said. “Before he signed, we talked about all the things he could face or see while serving and he assured me he understood the responsibility he was taking on when he joined.”
Today’s technology has made it easier for Jon Brandt to communicate with Taylor while he is in Afghanistan.
“I think it is easier today with technology to stay in touch,” Jon Brandt said. “But I can go days without hearing from him because of Internet and communication blackouts.”
Six Lakes resident Kathy Barnes, who is a Blue Star mother, explained that blackouts are necessary for the protection of families and troops from the cable news channels.
“When something happens over there it puts your heart in your throat,” Barnes said. “The military goes into these blackouts when something happens so they have time to notify families if something happened before it appears on the news.”
Blue Star Mothers is a national organization that has been around since 1943. It was started in Flint. Some of the activities Blue Star Mothers do include assisting in veterans ceremonies, attending patriotic rallies and meetings and providing support to mothers who have children serving in the Armed Forces.
“Being part of this group you get phone calls from other members asking how we are doing,” Barnes said.
Barnes has had two sons in the military. Jay Yearsovich served in the Persian Gulf during the 1990s and Andrew recently returned from Afghanistan.
“It’s definitely been a interesting journey,” Barnes said. “When Jay was serving we didn’t have the benefit of the Internet but when Andrew served it was easier even though connections are poor. Sometimes it is just nice seeing his face.”
Deann Oliver’s 19-year-old son Mitch Oliver is a 2011 Greenville High School graduate. He left for basic training in July 2011.
This past Veterans Day had more meaning for Deanne Oliver than it had before her son began serving.
“On my husband’s side we had quite a few who served in the military,” Deann Oliver said. “But having your own son serving in Afghanistan really changes your perspective about things and what really is important.”
There isn’t a minute that goes by when Mitch isn’t on his mother’s mind.
“I was fortunate that I did hear from him today,” Deann Oliver said. “We mainly communicate through Facebook or he will call when he can.”
Mitch Oliver was 8 years old when the September 11, 2001, terrorist attack occurred. He stepped foot in Afghanistan on Sept. 11, 2012.
“It was very emotional for my husband and I when he arrived on that day in Afghanistan,” Oliver said. “To think how old he was then when this war started and to know he arrived on the same day of the attacks years later was hard to imagine for us.”
Facebook, Skype and other technologies have certainly made it easier for parents to stay in touch with their young soldiers today.
“To think back how excruciating it must have been for parents before this technology was readily available today,” Deann Oliver said. “It is a huge blessing for us to have him communicate.”