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Family Communication: Then and Now

Skype, Facebook and mobile phones have changed the way we stay in touch

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Military Families

Then: Soldiers in WWII who were deployed overseas could wait weeks to send and receive handwritten letters with family. Some families actually received letters from soldiers months later — even after the war ended. Soldiers were disconnected from family activities, and some even became fathers without seeing their child until they returned home. "V-mail" (Victory Mail), an early use of technology in which letters were photographed so they took less space when shipped back to the States, speeded up mail delivery. The film was flown overseas, then printed and mailed free. V-mail shortened the time for mail delivery from up to a month for a ship to reach the United States to as little as 12 days via air. That was quick back then! Letters were saved and treasured, and are now shared across the generations.

Now: E-mail has taken the place of V-mail. Soldiers deployed to Iraq, Afghanistan or other overseas stations frequently have instant connections with family via the Internet. E-mails are sent back and forth about daily activities, and soldiers in many locations can use mobile phones to talk and send photos on the spot. Web cameras make it possible for mom or dad to see their children grow, and even read them a bedtime story regularly. While soldiers still feel far away from home, they more often are able to connect with family in "real time."

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