Calling Home For The Holidays, Via Video From Iraq

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For Lindsey Santana and her young family, video Web chats via Skype are an integral part of their lives. Her husband, Capt. Paul Santana, is a helicopter pilot serving in Iraq. And their video phone calls have helped them make the best of things during his deployment, which continues past this Thanksgiving.

The couple was also linked via video during the birth of their first child, Natalie, in West Virginia this past summer. And since then, Paul has been able to see his daughter "at least a few times a week," Lindsey tells NPR's Linda Wertheimer.

But while they're glad to be able to see one another, Lindsey and Paul acknowledge that the separation has also been a difficult one, at times.

"It was really hard for me at first. I would cry every time we would talk," Lindsey says. "But I love to just see him and know that he's OK. Because it's one thing to talk to him and hear his voice, but to see him and know that he really is fine helps me sleep better that night."

"We're obviously very fortunate that we've been able to communicate so often," Paul says. "It was very difficult with Natalie — you know, I'm very glad that I got to see her birth. But it was very difficult for me not to be there. And sometimes just talking to Lindsey and hearing Natalie — it reminds me I'm not there."

Paul's Army National Guard unit will be leaving Iraq sometime "within a couple weeks," he says.

With the withdrawal date looming, "a lot of people are still trying to find out if they're going to make it home for Christmas," he says. "And others are wondering which MRE (Meals Ready to Eat) may be the closest to their Thanksgiving dinner."

For her Thanksgiving meal, Lindsey plans to eat with her family — "we'll be thinking about Paul every second of it," she says. And she'll also save some turkey for her husband, she says, so he can have a sandwich when he returns home.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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