By BILL DUHART
U.S. Army Sgt. Richard Carrion knows how important a message from home can be when overseas, in harm's way.
Carrion remembers how good it felt when he was in the Arabian desert during the 1991 Persian Gulf War. That's one of the reasons why he and his wife, Rosie, and their four children traveled Saturday from Fort Dix to the USS New Jersey to send a special message to his brother-in-law, an Army soldier in the Persian Gulf.
They huddled close together on the deck of the decommissioned battleship and smiled at a tiny camera embedded in a cell phone. The snapshot was then e-mailed to Pvt. Franklin Rodriguez of the 324th Combat Support Hospital.
The photo shoot was part of a promotion called "Sending Smiles Overseas," allowing families of troops to e-mail pictures. Lisa Ihde, a spokeswoman for Sprint, which sponsored the event along with the USO of Philadelphia, said its phones are able to send compact pictures much smaller than standard digital picture files. The military discourages sending large e-mail files for soldiers.
The Carrions didn't really seem to care about how the pictures got there as long as they did.
"I just hope he gets it," said Carrion, 34. "I know how it is being in the military. It's like a breath of fresh air when you get a message from home."
Amy Meyer and her toddlers, Seth and Ethan, seemed to know just what Carrion was talking about. They struggled to hold a homemade sign with a big heart filled with stars. "We" was on top of the heart and "you" was below. It was a simple message, she said, to her husband, Air Force Maj. Greg Meyer, stationed at Prince Sultan Air Base in Saudi Arabia.
"This means a great deal to us," said Meyer, 43, of Medford Lakes. "Being able to see the kids is very important to him. He can't wait to be home."
Meyer was with Alyson Sevigny and her three young children. They are neighbors who have been best friends since moving here three years ago with their husbands, who are both stationed at Fort Dix.
Holding the same sign as Meyer, Sevigny gathered her kids for a picture to her husband, Maj. Chad Sevigny, also at Sultan Air Base. She said modern technology has brought the war into her living room by TV, but has also kept her close to her husband, half a world away.
"It's pretty cool because he's been able to send us a couple of pictures," said Sevigny, 39, of Medford Lakes.
Their husbands have been away from home since Feb. 5, but Sevigny said it seems like "forever."
For a few minutes Saturday, the wives felt they were just a little closer to home.
Reach Bill Duhart at (856) 486-2576 or firstname.lastname@example.org