They may be halfway across the world, but military men and women are trying to shorten the distance with loved ones through videotaped holiday greetings.
Broadcast teams from the Joint Hometown News Service in San Antonio have spent the fall taping messages of thousands of service members. Last year, on its website, the news service posted more than 8,000 greetings.
Service members from the Hall County area participating this year in the program were Army Pvt. Jerrell B. Barney and Navy Hospital Corpsman Brandon Head of Gainesville, Army Sgt. Christopher L. Standridge of Mount Airy, Air Force Airman 1st Class Brandon A. Tate of Commerce and Air Force Master Sgt. Ean A. Carpenter of Jefferson.
"I want to take the time to support (my parents) for supporting me in every decision I made in joining the Army," Barney said in his message. "I can't wait to get home soon."
He goes on to wish his family a merry Christmas. He ends the message with a simple "bye."
His father, Alejandro Green, said Jerrell, an East Hall graduate stationed in Mannheim, Germany, is in the first year in the Army and is "loving it."
"He's talking about making a career out of it," Green said. "... He said it's a good experience for him being away from home and his family, but he misses us. ... He's liking Germany. He said it's beautiful over there."
The family is proud of Barney but will miss him during the holidays.
"We usually get together with our family in Atlanta," he said.
Brandon Head's mother, Sherri Head, said she already has seen her son's video, which has been posted, along with all the others, on the news service's website. An Atlanta TV station aired the video Sunday morning.
"I cried, of course," she said. "I love modern technology, because I had the TV recording it just to make sure I didn't miss it. ... I've videoed it with my phone and uploaded it to Facebook so my friends can see it."
Brandon's message was simple.
"I just want to wish my family and friends ... Merry Christmas and a happy holiday," said the Johnson High School graduate stationed in Okinawa, Japan.
His mother said Brandon's duty in Japan ends in August, "so I'm hoping he will be stationed stateside ... so next Christmas we can all be together again."
She said the family plans to use Skype, a software application that allows users to make voice calls over the Internet, "to try to communicate with him over the holidays."
"And we usually talk to him every other week or so," Head said.
Standridge, who has been in the Army since 2001, and his wife and two children have been in Germany for almost three years, said his mother-in-law, Marie English.
Their absence during the holidays has been tough, "but we've learned to deal with it," English said. "We call and we talk, and we've got a computer where we can see (them) on it. We're doing pretty good with it."
Standridge is shown in his video with his family, wishing loved ones a "happy holidays."
"We love you," he said with his wife, April, by his side.
The family is set to return in August for a wedding, English said.
"And then it'll probably two or three years" before seeing them again, she quickly added.
Family members of Tate and Carpenter couldn't be reached for comment last week.