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Jeannette Eisenhauer talks with husband Sgt. Adam Eisenhauer, a soldier from the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, over a video teleconference call backstage at the 7th Signal Brigade holiday ball Tuesday held in the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion. Spouses were able to spend a few minutes of the special evening sharing a moment with their deployed loved ones. Sgt. Eisenhauer is currently deployed to Camp Victory in Iraq.
Jeannette Eisenhauer talks with husband Sgt. Adam Eisenhauer, a soldier from the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, over a video teleconference call backstage at the 7th Signal Brigade holiday ball Tuesday held in the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion. Spouses were able to spend a few minutes of the special evening sharing a moment with their deployed loved ones. Sgt. Eisenhauer is currently deployed to Camp Victory in Iraq. (Ben Bloker / S&S)
Jeannette Eisenhauer talks with husband Sgt. Adam Eisenhauer, a soldier from the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, over a video teleconference call backstage at the 7th Signal Brigade holiday ball Tuesday held in the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion. Spouses were able to spend a few minutes of the special evening sharing a moment with their deployed loved ones. Sgt. Eisenhauer is currently deployed to Camp Victory in Iraq.
Jeannette Eisenhauer talks with husband Sgt. Adam Eisenhauer, a soldier from the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, over a video teleconference call backstage at the 7th Signal Brigade holiday ball Tuesday held in the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion. Spouses were able to spend a few minutes of the special evening sharing a moment with their deployed loved ones. Sgt. Eisenhauer is currently deployed to Camp Victory in Iraq. (Ben Bloker / S&S)
Winta Patterson gives husband Sgt. Horatio Patterson, 26, a soldier from the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion currently deployed to Iraq, a thumbs up over a video teleconference call as other wives wait their turn at the 7th Signal Brigade Holiday Ball Tuesday held in the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion.
Winta Patterson gives husband Sgt. Horatio Patterson, 26, a soldier from the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion currently deployed to Iraq, a thumbs up over a video teleconference call as other wives wait their turn at the 7th Signal Brigade Holiday Ball Tuesday held in the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion. (Ben Bloker / S&S)

HEIDELBERG, Germany — Brig. Gen. Susan Lawrence had just started talking about a sergeant who had selflessly thrown himself on a grenade when the screen on the ballroom stage lit up.

“There they are,” said Lawrence, commander of the 5th Signal Command, as a group of her soldiers sitting in a room at Camp Victory, Iraq, started waving. “Say hello.”

The hundreds of people all dressed up for the 7th Signal Brigade’s holiday ball waved back.

Winta Patterson got up from her chair, in the long, black dress and silver heels her husband had bought her last Christmas, and hurried over to the stage.

She wanted to be among the first of the brigade spouses to videoteleconference from a holiday ball with her deployed mate.

“He told me he was going to try to be here,” she said of her husband of four months, Sgt. Horatio Patterson, of the 44th Expeditionary Signal Battalion, which went to Iraq in October. “I have so much to tell him.”

Tuesday night, with half of the brigade deployed to Iraq, the other half, based in Mannheim, went ahead with their holiday ball in the relative safety and splendor of the Patrick Henry Village Pavilion.

In Class A’s, Dress Blues, Dress Mess, silver sequins and little black dresses, they dined and danced.

And some went stag, except for the hope of a virtual date wearing camouflage.

“There are a hundred reasons not to do this,” said Lt. Col. Jay Chapman, commander of the 72nd Expeditionary Signal Battalion, whose wife, Lt. Col. Kris Kramarich, is in Iraq, commanding the 44th.

“But to do it for the esprit de corps — and to have the VTC (video teleconferencing) makes it special. It’s great to see my soldiers dressed up,” said Chapman, who was wearing a Dress Mess uniform, which is like a tuxedo but fancier.

Billed as “leveraging Signal core competencies to bring families together in the spirit of the holidays…,” the videoteleconferencing Tuesday night — with hook-ups from the pavilion to Camp Victory and Camp Echo — isn’t considered technologically difficult.

“All you need is an Internet connection,” Chapman said.

Many spouses talk to their deployed mates frequently, it turns out. “We talk every day,” Patterson said. “He has a cell phone.”

Chapman and Kramarich see each other — via videoteleconference — frequently because they have signal business to discuss.

They talk personally once a week, he said, and he waits for her to call him because he’s worried that she’s so busy, he’ll be bothering her if he calls her.

This has not actually worked.

“She said, ‘Why don’t you ever call me?’” Chapman said.

Despite the ability to talk daily, having her husband get to see her all dressed up in the clothes he’d given her last Christmas was nice, Patterson said, as “Feliz Navidad” blared in the background and couples danced.

“You can tell them I love my husband,” she said. “I miss him a lot.”

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Nancy is an Italy-based reporter for Stars and Stripes who writes about military health, legal and social issues. An upstate New York native who served three years in the U.S. Army before graduating from the University of Arizona, she previously worked at The Anchorage Daily News and The Seattle Times. Over her nearly 40-year journalism career she’s won several regional and national awards for her stories and was part of a newsroom-wide team at the Anchorage Daily News that was awarded the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.
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