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Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
Family and friends gather around a TV to talk to serviceman Zeke Amavisca at his overseas post. Cams are being donated to libraries.

An initiative to connect deployed service members with their families at home by putting Web cams in public libraries included a Mother's Day component in the Capitol Friday.

In front of a sizable audience of military families and dignitaries, mothers, wives and children of soldiers in the Utah Army National Guard's 116th Convoy Security Company exchanged Mother's Day wishes over a Web cam with the soldiers' images projected on a 50-inch TV.

"This is the best hour of my Mother's Day," Spanish Fork resident Pat Ware said as she got to see and talk to her son, Spc. Mitchell Vreeland.

Janet and Doug Shakespeare, from Cedar City, caught up on some face-to-face family business with their son. "Did you get your care package?" Janet Shakespeare asked. "Yeah," replied Spc. Colton Shakespeare. "Good," his mom replied. "Next time send an e-mail."

The Capitol event drew a high-profile lineup with speeches, musical numbers and appearances: Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.; Rep. Jim Matheson, D-Utah; Utah Attorney General Mark Shurtleff; tenor Michael Ballam; "American Idol" Utah finalist Carmen Rasmussen; "Candy Bomber" Gail S. Halvorsen; the Guard's Brig. Gen. Jefferson Burton; and Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon.

Most of the 116th returned home several weeks ago except for 27 who were asked to extend. First Lt. Brent Taylor is one of those. His wife, Jennie Taylor, is the group's family support coordinator. She also organized Friday's program, along with the Veterans of Foreign Wars, and the Web cam initiative for libraries. She said 52 Web cams have now been delivered or are scheduled to be delivered in Utah public libraries to give service members and their families a more convenient, and free, way to see and talk to each other.

The library in Beaver is set to get one of the Web cams. Librarian Angela Edwards said she can think of a lot of National Guard families who can take advantage of a Web cam at the library as a way to stay in touch with service members in the Middle East.

Joyce Johnson is one such library patron, and she looks forward to having a place where she can both talk to and see her son, Spec. Bryant Johnson. The son's wife, Nicole, has a Web cam at home. The view gives her a chance to see what her husband's conditions are like; his view allows him to see his 3- and 5-year-old daughters playing and dancing in the room while he talks to his wife.

"You can see what a gift this is," Jennie Taylor said. "We hope they get worn out and we have to replace them all real soon," she said of the library Web cams.


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