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Americans Send Holiday Greetings to Loved Ones Overseas - 2001-12-08

The United States' war against terrorism will separate many Americans overseas from their loved ones at home during Christmas and other upcoming holidays. A computer company is trying to bring separated Americans "virtually closer" for the holidays.

At Chicago's main public library, a family gathers before a computer video camera to sing a Christmas carol for a relative who is serving in the United States Navy and won't be home for the holidays. They're participating in "Give Thanks America," a project organized by the Compaq computer company and its Internet media partners.

Compaq spokeswoman Kellie Harris says the messages are sent via the Internet rather than on videotape. "This is a streaming video," she explains. "It is a video e-mail file that people will be able to get from wherever they are. They will open up their e-mail, just like any other. They will have a link, will click on the link and there you."

Chicago is just one of about 24 cities where anyone can visit a Give Thanks America recording site this month and prepare a greeting.

Eileen McGuinness is sending a general message of thanks that will be put on a special web site where military servicemen and women can see it. "Hello, I am Eileen from Chicago. I have a very large family that is all across America, from Phoenix to New Jersey. My brother escaped from the World Trade Center Area, he was across the street in the American Express Building," she says. "I think that they need to understand how grateful we are, and how what they are doing allows us to go about our everyday business as we did a couple of months ago," Eileen adds.

A group of school kids improvised a rap tune for their greeting, while in another part of the room, a mother recorded a message for her son and nephew in the Navy.

She says, recording her message, "Jeremy, I want you to know that I love you and miss you and am prouder of you than you can possibly imagine. Robert, same to you."

Jody Meehan and her family were shopping in downtown Chicago when they saw a sign inviting people to record holiday greetings for those in the military. "He likes to pretend that these things embarrass him, but I think deep down he will be warmed," Ms. Meehan says.

The Compaq computer company says its Give Thanks America project is a way to thank those who are working to protect Americans from future attacks, and to honor the memories of five Compaq employees killed in the September 11 terrorist attack in New York.