Webcam and Skype: Connect with webcam on special holidays (if available; not all Soldiers get to use internet while deployed). "After [an active day of walking, biking, playing games,] Army Staff Sgt. Jason Himel's children select a story for him to read to them. This year will be different, as the Himel children will use the computer to read to their father, who is currently on a duty tour in Kabul, Afghantistan" ~American Forces Press Service
USO Photo Book: Those with friends or family deployed overseas can create personal photo albums for free, courtesy of RocketLife. Family members can complete the book in fewer than 10 minutes or spend longer completely personalize their book. These 20-page albums connect troops stationed overseas to their family lives back home.
Share a video: You Tube and Facebook may be considered too public, but private companies such as Topia Technologies of Tacoma, Washington share their "Troop Skoot" technology with military families.
Chat on the phone: Deployed troops are able to reach out to their families and stay in touch with pre-paid international calling cards. Trouble accessing a phone line? The USO launched a satellite-based connectivity network in 2009, providing a private phone network, dedicated high-speed Internet bandwidth and WIFI access points for deployed troops in Afghanistan, Iraq and Kuwait.
Familygram: Because submarines normally maintain radio silence to avoid detection, personal messages from the outside world are restricted. A "familygram" is a personal, but not private, message sent to a sailor of the United States Navy on a submarine by their families.
Specials for military families: Many communities show their appreciation with programs and discounts. For example, this summer Blue Star Museum across the country are offering free admission to active duty military personnel and their families.
"Joining Forces": "[The initiative] aims to education, challenge and spark action from all sectors of society to ensure military families have the support they deserve," a White House statement explained. "This is a challenge to every segment of American society not to simply say thank you but to mobilize, take action and make a real commitment to supporting our military families," First Lady, Michelle Obama said.
Large companies, non-profits, churches and local community have responded with career opportunities following a move, summer camps for kids, help adjusting to new schools, entertainment, tech support and even household help.
Grow Friendships: Meet up with another family who is missing dad this weekend, picnic, barbecue or discover community activities. You and the kids will be glad you did!
A special thank you to the Haskell-Gallegos family for sharing the picture of dad's homecoming.