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New medium, old messages

The Red Cross is offering folks a high-tech way to send season's greetings to military family members overseas.

By KEVIN GRAHAM
Published December 9, 2005


photo
[Times photo: Ken Helle]
Carl and Renee Bucker hold a photo to the videocamera as they tape a holiday message to their daughter, Sgt. Sasha Alvarado, in Iraq.

  photo
[Times photo: Ken Helle]
The Buckers appear on screen as their message is uploaded to the Red Cross Web site.

Sgt. Sasha Alvarado and her husband, Marcos, are stationed in Iraq about an hour apart from each other.

TAMPA - Two months after walking down the aisle in a wedding dress, Sasha Alvarado was walking in a desert in Iraq.

Having a proper honeymoon one day was among the holiday wishes Alvarado's mother sent Thursday through an Internet video message provided by the American Red Cross.

The Tampa Bay chapter began "Project Video Connect" last week to connect family members and friends with military personnel deployed worldwide.

Last year, more than 80 local families and individuals took part. The five-minute virtual greetings can be taped and sent through Dec. 30.

Alvarado's parents, Carl and Renee Bucker, of Lakeland, said sitting in front of a Web cam was better than any handwritten holiday card they could have sent.

"I wish she could do one so we could see her as well," Carl Bucker said.

Alvarado, 23, is an Army sergeant with the 101st Airborne. She's stationed in Tikrit, near Baghdad. Her husband, Marcos Alvarado, 23, is also an Army sergeant in Iraq. He's assigned to a unit about an hour away from his wife. They met during a two-year tour in Korea and got married in July.

The Buckers copied him the video e-mail they sent their daughter.

"It's going to be odd not having you close for Christmas," Carl Bucker, an Army veteran, told his daughter. "But we're proud of you. You're making a difference."

Kevin Graham can be reached at 813 226-3433 or kgraham@sptimes.com

HOW TO SEND A HOLIDAY MESSAGE

Messages are taped at the American Red Cross Tampa Bay Chapter headquarters at 3310 W Main St. in Tampa. Taping hours are 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday through Dec. 30. To reserve a time, call 813 348-4820 or go to www.redcrosstbc.org for information.

[Last modified December 9, 2005, 01:18:14]


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