SIKESTON -- Heather Carmack of Sikeston admits when it comes to communicating with her husband, they're pretty lucky. Even though Carmack's husband, Sam, is stationed in Iraq -- and will be over the holidays -- she's still able to "see" her husband, thanks to technology.
"I think back to my own grandparents -- and my friends who have grandparents -- who fought in World War II and it took forever for them to hopefully get a letter sent to them," Carmack noted.
Carmack said she and her husband communicate with each other several different ways -- through phones, e-mails, online chatting, voice conferencing, webcams and the regular mail.
"It puts the family more at ease to be able to communicate with their loved ones," Carmack said. "You can talk to someone on the phone and through e-mail but it doesn't feel the same when you're not face to face and can actually see them while talking to them. You can actually see for yourself they're OK."
Carmack plans to talk to her husband via telephone or chatting on messenger Christmas Day, depending on how long the wait is for troops to use the phone. If there is a large line of troops waiting, the phone call limit is 30 minutes, she said.
But military families aren't the only ones struggling with the absence of their loved ones this holiday season. For some, it's not that easy to catch a train or plane to be home with their family for the holidays.
A native of Aitutaki in the Cook Islands, New Zealand, Rangi O'Herin, who's been living in New Madrid with her husband, Ed, for the past five years, would love to see her family for the holidays.
"During this festive times -- that's the time you really look forward to seeing them and really miss them," Mrs. O'Herin said.
Mrs. O'Herin misses her family coming together, cooking, sitting and conversing about what the past, present and future will be for them and what the Lord will deliver for them, she said.
But she does keep in touch with her family.
"It's very simple. I go on e-mail and send them cards and give them a call," Mrs. O'Herin said.
In addition to the regular telephone, mail and even e-mail, video instant messaging and mobile messaging are gaining in popularity as convenient and fun ways to feel like you're talking right next door to someone. And now, group voice conferencing -- the modern version of the "party line" -- is offering a way to chat with up to 15 friends and family members at the same time.
By combining conventional instant messaging (sending notes back and forth online) with real-time video services, video instant messaging enables people to send live audio-video messages back and forth with friends and family members. With just a simple webcam and the instant messaging service on a home computer, users can collaborate with siblings on gift ideas or let children say 'thank you' to long distance relatives in real-time.
"You can do webcam at any computer. Sometimes we do a conference with Sam and I and his parents; you can't use a webcam with more than one person," Carmack pointed out. Most instant messaging services give users the ability to send and receive video instant messages. And with easy-to-use webcams available nationwide, video instant messaging lets people see and hear the family and friends they would otherwise miss this holiday season.
"It's always good to hear the voice," noted Dennis Carmack whose son is married to Heather Carmack. "It's just that point of hearing a voice or answer to a question right then and there."
And the next best thing would be messenger, regular e-mail and very last would be snail mail or try to talk on the phone, Dennis Carmack suggested.
But Mrs. O'Herin admitted it never gets easier to miss holidays with family. She credited her husband for being so generous because she's been back home two times for Christmas since living in the United States.
For those who must be away from their families during the holidays, Mrs. O'Herin explained how she gets through the difficult time: "I always believe in the Lord that he will contact my family and we will be together at those special events as we would (normally) be at Christmas and New Year's night."
ARA Content contributed to this article.