‘I love you’... from war zone to the Westside

       “I love you,” said Capt. Matthew Buck in Iraq, looking happily at his family in the video-conference room at the Old Town Guest House Sept. 19.
       “I love you,” responded his wife, Susan, surrounded by her three young sons and gazing eagerly back at his face on the room's large TV screen.
       It was near the beginning of what is believed to be the first video-conference in Colorado Springs between a soldier and his family, other than at Fort Carson.
       In such calls at Carson, Susan said afterward, the longest allowed time was 10 minutes. The call at Old Town Guest House lasted an hour. “It's amazing to be able to see him this long,” she said. “That means a whole lot to me.”
       The opportunity was created when the New York-based Freedom Calls Foundation phoned to ask Old Town Guest House owners Don and Shirley Wick if they wanted to volunteer their video-conferencing room/phone line for a soldier and his family.
       The Wicks were fine with the idea. They had already been thinking about it, because their building on 26th Street is set up with commercial video-conferencing capabilities - the only one they know of in the region. The going rate to video-conference overseas at the guest house is about $95 an hour, according to Don.
       “Shirley and I both firmly believe our troops need to be supported,” he said. “This is not a political position, but our troops deserve support for the job they do, and this is a unique way that we can help.”
       The media was allowed to sit in on the first few minutes of the call before leaving to give the family some privacy. During that time, Matthew talked to his stepsons, Greg, 7, and Grant Smith, 5, about school and some things he was trying to find for them in Iraq; complimented Susan on the way she had done her hair; and took a long look at his 4-month-old son, Gavin Buck, whom he last saw in person at birth.
       Don Wick said he is not worried about being inundated with similar call requests from other soldiers or their families, now that the word is getting out. “We'll cross that bridge when we get to it,” he said. Right now he and Shirley are willing to donate a couple of hours a week, as long as the “bridging company” (a commercial entity in another part of the country that sets up the interface between video-conferencing callers) is willing to keep bearing the main costs. He could not predict that likelihood, because this is the first time he has worked with Freedom Calls, which organized the call.
       According to the foundation's website, the entity “has deployed its first wireless VOIP telephone and video conferencing services in an Army Camp located in the Sunni Triangle. The Foundation's network offers 50 soft-phones and 20 hard-phones, 6 video conferencing stations, 10 video email stations, and 50 computers with email and internet access. As a result, the more than 10,000 soldiers in the camp will be able to communicate with their families and loved ones at home on a regular basis free of charge.”

Westside Pioneer article