|By TIM THORNBERRY
FRANKFORT, Ky. — Timothy Foye and Keryn Christie’s wedding was like most with beautiful flowers, loving family members and friends and a big wedding party complete with Tim’s big brother, Daniel, serving as best man as many brothers do.
What made their wedding unique was that big brother is stationed thousands of miles away in Iraq as a corporal in the U.S. Marines. Daniel’s presence was made possible through the magic of modern technology and the efforts of the Freedom Calls Foundation (FCF.)
FCF is a public charity providing a communications network, including state of the art video conferencing, telephone and Internet services that enable troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to keep in touch with their families and loved ones at home, free of charge. The Foundation provides services to more than 30,000 soldiers and marines 24 hours per day and the Army has requested that the foundation install eight additional facilities in Iraq and two in Afghanistan in the coming months.
The idea came from the Foyes’ sister, Allison Snider, who wanted her brothers to be together for the wedding.
“About three weeks ago at one or two in the morning I was trying to figure out a way that Dan could be a part of the wedding, so I got on the Internet doing some searches and found Freedom Calls. I e-mailed John Harlow (executive director of FCF) and told him our story and the next day I got an e-mail from him saying we could make this happen,” she said.
“This is a dream come true. It has always been my brother Timothy’s expectation that Daniel would be the best man at his wedding, but the war intervened. He even contemplated putting off the wedding until Daniel returns.”
Harlow said, “The foundation was formed as a public charity because we believe family is important, particularly in wartime and that this is the least that the American people can do to show their appreciation for the sacrifices being made by our soldiers and their families.
“Throughout history, tours of duty in wartime have served to separate families. FCF is transforming the experience of soldiers on extended deployments in wartime. Though separated from their families by overseas duty, soldiers no longer need be estranged from their families in time of war. They can now participate in milestone family events such as births, school graduations, anniversaries, etc. from the front lines via video conference over the Freedom Calls Network. Soldiers may now keep their commitments to their families while keeping their commitments to their country thousands of miles away.”
The wedding took place outside in the garden area of the Buffalo Trace Distillery with a six-foot screen set up to see Daniel and teleconferencing equipment making it possible for Daniel to see the wedding as well.
“I didn’t want to let my brother down on his big day,” said Daniel. “That I can be a part of it, is just an honor for me, I wish I could jump through the screen. It’s one of the most amazing things that I have experienced in my life, being so far away yet being connected in this way is basically like being there. It’s overwhelming almost.”
The emotion of the day became apparent as Timothy stepped to the screen to see his brother for the first time in months calling out his name and shedding a few tears while Daniel smiled back at him.
“I’m very glad you’re a part of this,” he told Daniel.
“He’s the best brother anyone could ever have. I feel excited and happy and very, very fortunate. This is truly a miracle,” said Tim.
Other friends and family came up to the screen prior to the wedding some in groups and some alone to say hello and reminisce including mother Janet Foye.
“I’m extremely excited,” she said. “Tim didn’t want any one else to be his best man except his big brother.”
Daniel’s girlfriend Abby Smith was also on hand for the wedding and was equally excited to see Daniel and to talk to him.
“I didn’t really know this kind of technology existed. I think it is a great thing. It’s really important for the family,” she said “Dan was really sad that he wasn’t going to be here, but in some kind of a way now he is.”
As the wedding music started and the party made their way to a bridge overlooking the garden area, Timothy reached out to touch the screen as he walked by and the entire family was together just like all other weddings. Afterward the screen was moved inside to a reception area where Daniel once again joined the festivities and offered a toast to the new husband and wife.
“It means the world to me to be a part of this wedding,” he said. “Even though I’m not there physically I’m able to be a part of it all. I’m honored to be Tim’s best man.”
Paul Maier is director of the information technology department at Buffalo Trace and was instrumental in getting together the equipment used in the connection for the wedding.
“We provided the technology and equipment on this end it was not as difficult as we thought it was going to be,” he said. “We were able to get it all together going half way across the world and the quality was amazing.”
The Foye reunion lasted for nearly four hours, and it is certain upon Daniel’s return the family will reunite again without a video connection in sight.
For details about the Freedom Calls Foundation call 718-797-9154, visit its website at www.freedomcalls.org or send an e-mail to email@example.com
This farm news was published in the May 3, 2006 issue of Farm World.