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On the line from Afghanistan: Husband and stepson
Jana Hamrick with a picture of her husband, Mark Hamrick, right, and stepson Devin Hamrick in Afghanistan. The two men were able to arrange a two-hour meeting to send her Mother’s Day wishes. - photo by Tom Reed

JEFFERSON — When her phone rang at 4:30 a.m. recently, Jana Hamrick didn’t know who to expect on the other end.

“When I heard my husband (Mark Hamrick’s) voice, I was very excited,” said Hamrick, a Jefferson resident.

“He told me to ‘Hold on’ and then the next voice that I heard was (my stepson) Devin. To have both of my boys on the line at the same time was very surreal.”

Mark Hamrick has been working in Afghanistan as a contractor for a private company since December. Devin Hamrick’s Winder-based National Guard unit was deployed in April.

What started out in the United States as a missed opportunity turned into a unique reunion thousands of miles away.

Mark Hamrick came home in April, four days too late to see his son off to final training before the 18-year-old was to be deployed for 10 months.

Mark Hamrick is stationed northeast of Kabul and Devin Hamrick is south of the capital. In order to make the phone call possible, a lot of special requests had to be granted.

“My husband was able to speak with his commanders and get approval to take a side trip on one of the convoys down to Kabul,” Jana Hamrick said. “The convoy rerouted to Camp Phoenix, which is where my stepson first arrived for in-processing. Devin’s (commanding officers) granted him a little time to visit with his father.

“We have our own Murphy’s Law: Hamrick’s Law. Usually everything that can go wrong, does go wrong. The trip down to Camp Phoenix that should have taken an hour took three and Mark was afraid that he’d missed Devin. He just sort of hung out in front of the chow hall hoping to see him. Luckily, everything worked out in the end.”

Jana Hamrick describes the visit and subsequent phone call as the “best late Mother’s Day and early Father’s Day gift possible.”

“Before their two-hour meeting at Camp Phoenix, they hadn’t seen each other since December when Mark left,” she said.

“They are really like two peas in a pod — Mark is truly Devin’s hero — so this visit was very special for both of them.”

The Internet social networking site Facebook also played a key role in lining up the visit. Both Hamrick soldiers have Facebook accounts and were able to use the Web site to send each other short messages and to coordinate the Camp Phoenix reunion.

“I’d just started checking into Facebook before Mark left,” Jana Hamrick said. “At first he sort of blew it off, but then he started getting more into it when he found out that a lot of the guys he was working with were also on Facebook.”

“Now both he and Devin uses it to stay in touch with family and friends. Mark’s parents, sister and even his grandparents are all on Facebook now.”

With family all over the globe in Australia, Minnesota and the continental United States, Jana Hamrick says Facebook has proven to be an invaluable communication tool. She and her husband also use the site as a source for daily correspondence.

“No matter what is going on, I’m on Facebook at 9 p.m. for our chats; that’s about 5:30 a.m. for him. We also use Skype for video conferences sometimes,” she said.

“We are really very fortunate to have all this technology available to us. I was talking to Mark’s grandmother whose husband served in the military and she told me about how tough it was to communicate with him when he was deployed. Back then, there was a lot more heart-breaking waiting involved in trying to hear from your (loved one). Communication has gotten so much easier and I am so appreciative of technology.”

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